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Coarctation of the Aorta


Coarctation of the aorta is when the largest blood vessel in the body is narrowed. This narrowing makes it difficult for blood to reach the lower body. The symptoms depend on the severity of the narrowing. Newborns with a severe narrowing may be in shock with no blood flow to the legs, kidneys and intestines. If mild, older children may be diagnosed by weak leg pulses or an elevated blood pressure in their arms.

Normal heart – in a healthy heart with proper blood flow, the blue droplets representing oxygen-poor blood travel to the lungs, and the red oxygen-rich droplets circulate through the body.

A heart with coarctation of the aorta.


The pediatric cardiac surgeons are able to enlarge a severely narrowed aorta with surgical treatment. If the narrowing is mild or recurs after surgery, the narrowed area may be stretched in a cardiac catheterization procedure using a balloon or stent, depending on the situation.

A heart with coarctation of the aorta.

Surgical treatment for coarctation of the aorta the pediatric cardiac surgeon will enlarge the narrowed aorta. Surgical treatment includes:

  • General anesthesia
  • Opening the chest under the arm
  • Cutting out any tissue causing the narrowing and
  • Sewing the ends of the aorta together in a way to enlarge the narrow area.

Cardiac catheterization procedure to treat coarctation – used when the narrowing is mild or recurs after surgery. The first step is inserting the catheter.

Cardiac catheterization with balloon – once the the catheter is in place, the aorta is stretched with a balloon.

Cardiac catheterization with stent – if the narrowing will not stay open, a stent is placed to hold the aorta open. Since the stent remains the same size over time, placing a stent is usually reserved until the child is nearly full grown.