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Coarctation of the Aorta

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

What it is

Coarctation of the aorta refers to a narrowing of the aorta, which is the major artery leading from of the heart. This birth defect makes it hard for blood carrying nutrients and oxygen to travel from the heart to the body. Coarctation of the aorta is one of the more common heart conditions and may be seen with other defects.


Symptoms will depend on how narrow the aorta is, which dictates how much blood can flow from the heart to the body. There may be no symptoms at all, or symptoms may not develop until adolescence for children with mild cases. Symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold feet or legs
  • Leg cramps with exercise
  • Pounding headache
  • Nosebleed
  • High blood pressure with exercise
  • Deceased ability to exercise
  • Failure to thrive/poor growth


Anti-depressant: Babies whose mothers took Wellbutrin while pregnant face a more than doubled risk of being born with coarctation of the aorta, according to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.


Most babies will receive medication immediately after birth to stabilize them until they can have surgery, although some babies will not be diagnosed until they are older. An operation will likely be performed to open up or remove the narrow part of the aorta. If the issue is small, the two free ends of the aorta may be reconnected in a procedure called anastomosis. If a large part is removed, a graft of one of the baby’s own arteries may be needed to fill the gap. Some babies will need lifelong treatment for high blood pressure.

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