The aorta is the main artery carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Aortic coarctation is the narrowing of the aorta which slows or blocks the blood flow.

Heart and Main Vessels

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Aortic coarctation is a congenital heart defect, which means it is present at birth. It occurs because of a problem with the development of the aorta while the fetus is developing in the womb.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chances of having aortic coarctation. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:


Aortic coarctation may or may not have symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is because of aortic coarctation. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

  • High blood pressure , particularly at a young age
  • Cold legs and feet
  • Shortness of breath, especially with exercise
  • Dizziness
  • Leg cramps after exercise
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nosebleeds
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Chest x-ray —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the chest
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the heart
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan of the heart—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the heart
  • Echocardiogram —a test that uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart
  • Cardiac catheterization —a tube-like instrument inserted into the heart through a vein or artery (usually in the arm or leg) to detect problems with the heart and its blood supply


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:


The narrow section of the aorta can be removed surgically, and the two “good” ends reconnected.

Balloon Angioplasty

A tiny catheter tube is inserted into a blood vessel in the leg and threaded up to the aorta, where a balloon is inflated to expand the narrow area. A stent may be placed to keep the area open.

Balloon Angioplasty

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Since aortic coarctation is a congenital defect, it cannot be prevented.