Coarctation of the aorta (CoA) is a congenital heart condition in which the aorta is narrowed, obstructing blood flow to the lower part of the body and increasing blood pressure above the constriction. Symptoms vary depending on the degree of narrowing. Symptoms in infants include:
- Difficulty breathing
Sometimes the narrowing may be mild and the body will make new arteries around the narrowing. This may result in coarctation being diagnosed later in childhood or adulthood. The most common presenting symptom in older children or adults is high blood pressure.
Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with and/or treated for coarctation of the aorta should have lifelong care from a cardiologist who specializes in congenital heart defects. The Ohio State University Medical Center provides this care from birth to adulthood. We partner with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to provide the resources necessary for the care of adult congenital cardiac patients through the Columbus Ohio Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program (COACH).
The COACH program focuses on:
- Adults with congenital heart disease (CHD)
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Cardiovascular connective tissue disorders
- Pregnancy in women with heart disease
- Transition of adolescents with CHD into adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) care
- Training of future ACHD providers
Why Choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?
Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center offers a team approach to CHD, which means each patient is evaluated by an Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) specialist, and when appropriate, a cardiac surgeon, an imaging specialist, and an interventional cardiologist with training in CHD. This integrated approach means that each patient’s disease is treated individually, with that particular patient’s needs, and physical condition, in mind.
What Is Coarctation of the Aorta?
Coarctation of the aorta is a narrowing of the aorta, the large blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Usually, the narrowing occurs near the ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel that was important in the fetus. This narrowing can cause increased blood pressure in your arms, and decreased blood pressure in your legs. The extra pressure in the heart can cause the heart muscle to thicken which, over time, may cause it to weaken. If the narrowing is severe, symptoms are present in infancy. If it is not treated, heart failure or death can occur. Treatment for coarctation of the aorta often requires surgical repair.
Adolescents and adults who have the condition often do not have symptoms because their narrowing is usually less severe. If they do have symptoms, they may include:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Cold feet
- Leg cramps
Coarctation of the aorta may be detected by a physician who notices:
- High blood pressure in the arms
- A blood pressure difference between the arms and legs
- A heart murmur
- A weak pulse in the legs
Coarctation of the aorta can be repaired at any age. An adolescent or young adult may be able to have the condition treated with a cardiac catheterization, a nonsurgical procedure.
Renarrowing can occur without symptoms. If you had your condition repaired in childhood and narrowing has recurred, you may be a candidate for an additional cardiac catheterization procedure.
Even after repair, patients with coarctation can develop high blood pressure or coronary artery problems at an earlier age than patients who have not had a coarctation. This may occur regardless of the amount of narrowing at the coarctation. Therefore, it is very important that patients who have had a coarctation repair have lifelong cardiology follow up to monitor for any long-term complications.
What Causes Coarctation of the Aorta?
Coarctation of the aorta occurs during fetal development or in the first week of life. In most cases, the cause is unknown.