What Is Coarctation of the Aorta or Aortic Narrowing?

Coarctation of the aorta refers to the narrowing of the aorta. Generally, the aorta (a large blood vessel) separates away from your heart and the oxygen rich blood is delivered to your body. When coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing happens the pumping of your heart is harder, forcing the blood through the aorta, the narrow part.

What Is Coarctation of the Aorta or Aortic Narrowing?

Generally, coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing is present from birth and can be mild to intense. Many times until adulthood, it may not be identified and this depends on how thin the aorta narrowing has become.

Coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing occurs often in association with other problems of the heart. The coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing treatment is generally successful and is normally a condition required careful follow-up all through the adulthood stages.

What Causes Coarctation of the Aorta or Aortic Narrowing?

The exact reason causing coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing is not known by the researchers. However, this narrowing develops in the aorta in the mild to severe ranges. Although coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing occurs or may happen anywhere through the aorta, the coarctation is positioned near ductus-arteriosus, a blood vessel. Generally, this condition starts prior to birth.

Coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing rarely develops later in the adulthood. Sometimes, traumatic injury leads to coarctation of the aorta. Thus, very rare there is severe hardening of arteries or causes a condition of inflamed arteries such that it narrows the aorta, thereby leading to coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing.

Normally, the coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing occurs beyond the blood vessels branching to the upper body and prior to the blood vessels reaching to the lower body. It also leads to high blood pressure in the arms, while the ankles and legs have low blood pressure.

The coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing condition keeps the hearts left ventricle (the heart chamber lower left) working harder to pump blood through the lessened or reduced aorta. This results in increasing the left ventricle blood pressure and the left ventricle wall thickens and it is referred to as hypertrophy.

FAQ on Coarctation of the Aorta or Aortic Narrowing?

What is the Aorta and What Does It Do?

The aorta in the human body is the largest artery. Aorta originates from the left ventricle and extends to the abdomen. Here it divides into smaller two arteries. The aorta is responsible for the distribution of highly oxygenated blood through the systemic circulation to all body parts.

What Part of the Heart Pumps Blood into the Aorta?

The left ventricle of the human heart fills and relaxes with blood prior to pumping and squeezing the rich oxygen blood into the aorta through the aortic valve. The aorta is the key artery carrying blood all through the body. The left ventricle muscle wall is thick and this is owing to the reason that it has to pump blood required for the whole body.

Which Chamber of the Heart Pumps Blood out into the Body?

The left ventricle pumps blood out into the body, into the aorta through the aortic valve. Thus, all the key arteries branch from aorta and carry blood to other body parts. The main arteries are the carotid arteries in your neck and head that supplies blood to your brain.

How Common is Coarctation of the Aorta or Aortic Narrowing?

Coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing is a heart defect that is common. Nearly, 5 to 8 percent of the people having heart defects have coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing.

In Case I Have COA, is there a Higher Risk for My Relatives to have Heart Problems?

In case you have coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing, it is more likely for your brothers, sisters and parents to have heart defects. Your family members may get tested and these tests can include abnormal mitral valve, bicuspid aortic valve and coarctation. Getting tested implies taking an ultrasound picture of your heart known as echocardiogram.

Name the Other Defects in COA that are Common?

Coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing patients around 50 percent to 85 percent have a bicuspid aortic valve and this implies there are two flaps in place of three. In fact, there are people born with coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing where there is a hole present on the lower wall of their heart. This is referred to as VSD (ventricular septal defect). The other defect is when there are problems with other heart valves known as the mitral valve. However, coarctations of the aorta or aortic narrowing defective people are at risk from blood vessels swelling.

Can Patients with Repaired Coarctation of the Aorta Exercise Normally?

Most patients can exercise normally even with a repaired coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing. Some may be recommended to avoid heavy weight lifting. However, your ACHD (Adult Congenital Heart Disease) specialist will keep you informed of the right exercises for you.

Can Women with Coarctation of the Aorta have Children?

Coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing is best repaired before becoming pregnant. With unrepaired Coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing, women are at highest risk during pregnancy.

Most women can enjoy successful pregnancies with repaired coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing. It is crucial that all women with coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing consult an ACHD (Adult Congenital Heart Disease) specialist prior to getting pregnant. This specialist will give a detailed image of your aorta. In this process, you may ensure you do not have new areas of swelling or narrowing. A bigger risk is pregnancy and if your aorta is narrow even after repair, you definitely require additional treatment so that your pregnancy is safe.

The common complication in women with coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing during pregnancy is due to high blood pressure. All pregnant women experiencing the coarctation of the aorta should check regularly their blood pressure. Having coarctation of the aorta implies having a child with a heart defect risk is higher. You should consult with adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) specialist.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Coarctation of the Aorta or Aortic Narrowing?

The symptoms of coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing vary with the severity of the condition. There are many cases where people do not experience any symptoms. The coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing may reveal symptoms and signs in children earlier in life. However, there are no apparent symptoms in mild cases and does go undiagnosed until adulthood. Some people may show symptoms of heart defects in association with coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing.

Severe coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing babies may show signs immediately after birth. These signs or symptoms include:

  • Feeding difficulty
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Heavy sweating
  • Irritability
  • Dull skin

Coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing in babies when left untreated may lead to death or heart failure.

Signs and Symptoms of Coarctation of the Aorta or Aortic Narrowing in Adults and Children

Adults having this condition do not exhibit symptoms and this may be because the narrowing of the aorta is less severe. In case the symptoms or signs appear, it shows as high blood pressure also referred to as hypertension that is measured in the arms. Likewise, when blood pressure shows high in the arms, it is low in the legs in patients with coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing.

Distinctive murmurs & sounds on auscultation are seen in coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing patients (for instance, late or continuous systolic murmur over the thoracic spine, aortic ejection sound, bilateral collateral arterial murmurs, aortic regurgitation of early diastolic murmur or short midsystolic murmur).

The key signs and symptoms of coarctation of the aorta or aortic narrowing in adults and children may include:

  • Severe headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Nose bleeds
  • Cold feet or leg cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache.

Also Read:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: April 2, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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