Coarctation (narrowing) of the aorta: Causes, description, Treatment

Chest | Cardiology | Coarctation (narrowing) of the aorta (Disease)

Coarctation (narrowing) of the aorta: Description

Coarctation of the aorta, or aortic coarctation, is a congenital condition whereby the aorta narrows in the area where the ductus arteriosus inserts.

There are three types: preductal coarctation is the narrowing is proximal to the ductus arteriosus; ductal coarctation represents the narrowing occurs at the insertion of the ductus arteriosus; and postductal coarctation involves the narrowing is distal to the insertion of the ductus arteriosus.

Coarctation of the aorta symptoms depend on the seriousness of the condition. Babies with severe coarctation of the aorta usually begin having signs and symptoms like: pale skin, irritability, heavy sweating and difficulty breathing shortly after birth. Left untreated, aortic coarctation in babies may lead to heart failure and death. In milder cases, symptoms may not develop until the child has reached adolescence.

Signs and symptoms in older children and adults may include: high blood pressure, shortness of breath, especially during exercise, chest pain, cold feet or legs, dizziness or fainting, headache, muscle weakness, leg cramps or cold feet and nosebleeds.

Causes and Risk factors

Coarctation of the aorta is generally present at birth, congenital, such as Turner syndrome and often occurs along with other heart defects like bicuspid aortic valve, defects in which only one ventricle is present, ventricular septal defect.

Complications that may occur before, during, or soon after surgery include: high blood pressure, stroke, rupture of the aorta, premature coronary artery disease — narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart and cerebral aneurysm.

Coarctation (narrowing) of the aorta: Treatment and Diagnosis

Tests to confirm a diagnosis of coarctation of the aorta include: chest x-ray, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (ECG), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computer Tomography (CT) angiogram.

Treatment is conservative if asymptomatic, but may require surgical resection of the narrow segment if there is arterial hypertension

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