Coarctation of the Aorta

Coarctation of the aorta is a birth defect that causes a part of your aorta to get too narrow. This makes your heart pump harder to move blood. If you have high blood pressure or get headaches, muscle weakness, or cold hands and feet, coarctation of the aorta could be the cause.

The aorta is the biggest artery in your body. It starts at the heart and brings blood to the rest of your body. Without treatment, coarctation of the aorta leads to life-threatening heart problems.

Treating Coarctation of the Aorta at UVA

Aortic coarctation can be mild or severe. How we treat it depends on your age and how bad it is. At UVA, our experts have the tools to diagnose aortic coarctation and the skills to treat it.

Treatment usually starts with a procedure. We have options for widening or replacing the narrow part of your aorta. We can:

  • Inflate a balloon inside your aorta to expand the narrow part (balloon angioplasty with stenting)
  • Remove the narrow section (resection with anastomosis)
  • Expand the narrow part with another blood vessel from your body (subclavian flap aortoplasty)
  • Add a tube to go around the narrow section (bypass graft repair)
  • Open the aorta by adding a synthetic patch to the wall of the narrow part (patch aortoplasty

You might need medicine to control your blood pressure after surgery. We'll work with you to choose the best treatment option for a successful recovery.

Aortic Coarctation Symptoms

Most people don’t get symptoms. Mild cases aren’t usually diagnosed until later in life. More severe cases can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Pain, like headaches, chest pain, or leg cramps
  • Weakness or fainting

Babies with coarctation of the aorta might show symptoms soon after birth.

Diagnosing Coarctation of the Aorta

We diagnose coarctation of the aorta with these tests:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiography
  • Ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Aortography

Get Genetic Testing

Coarctation of the aorta might be caused by a genetic birth defects. We offer genetic testing at our Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic, located at the Heart & Vascular Center.