Coarctation of the aorta is a small narrowing of the big artery that pumps blood from the heart to the rest of body (the aorta). This makes it hard for the blood to flow from the heart to the lower part of the body. The blood backs up above the narrow area, causing higher blood pressure in the arms and in the blood vessels going to the head than in the legs. In severe cases, no blood can get through the narrow area. Severe coarctation of the aorta in a newborn infant is a medical emergency that can result in death if it’s not treated.
The cause of this birth defect is not known. Sometimes it happens with other heart defects or with certain genetic disorders. Inside each cell of the body are genes. Genes contain the information that tells the body how to develop and work. Changes in the genes can be passed from parents to children.
Depending upon how severe the narrowing and how much it changes normal blood flow, the baby may develop symptoms in hours to days, or may not develop any symptoms for years. If the narrowing is severe at birth, the baby will have symptoms that may include:
The lack of blood flow to the lower part of the body may cause the baby to stop making urine.
Symptoms in older children may include:
Infants may be diagnosed in the first few days of life or at well-child exams later. Tests may include:
Even if the defect is not causing any symptoms, surgery is needed to prevent high blood pressure from getting worse over time. The surgery may be done in one of several ways:
Surgery is usually recommended once the diagnosis is made and is usually done while the child is an infant. Most children who have successful treatment have no more symptoms and can lead normal lives. Older children will usually still have high blood pressure that needs to be treated. Sometimes the narrowing comes back when a child is older.
Your child will need to have regular follow-up visits with your healthcare provider and usually a heart specialist.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.