What is coarctation of the aorta?

Coarctation of the aorta is a common congenital (present at birth) heart defect.

Coarctation comes from the Latin coartare, meaning "to press together." In coarctation of the aorta, the aorta is pinched in or narrowed, either in a single location or along a portion of its length. This narrowing restricts normal blood flow through the aorta.

Normal vs. Coarctation of the Aorta

Who is affected by coarctation of the aorta?

Coarctation of the aorta occurs in about 1 in 10,000 births and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all congenital heart defects. It is less common, but it is also not unusual for the diagnosis to be made in adulthood.

What are the long-term effects of coarctation of the aorta?

Complications can develop from untreated coarctation of the aorta, the result of long-term high blood pressure caused by the coarctation. Some of the most severe complications include stroke, early-onset coronary artery disease, and brain aneurysm or aortic rupture. If the coarctation is severe and remains untreated for a long period, kidney and liver failure can develop. Despite this, there are many people who are not diagnosed with coarctation until they are being checked for high blood pressure as an adult.

More than half of people with coarctation of that aorta also have a congenital heart valve defect (bicuspid aortic valve). Over time, the valve condition usually worsens and may require surgical valve repair or replacement. People who have valve disease are also at risk for an aortic aneurysm (weakening in the walls of the aorta that causes it to bulge out and poses a risk of rupture).