Aortic Coarctation—Adult

(Coarctation of the Aorta—Adult)


Aortic coarctation is when the aorta is narrow. The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body. When the aorta is narrow, it can slow or block blood flow. This can put a strain on the heart or blood vessels. It can lead to future problems. This condition often occurs with other heart defects. It may be mild or severe.

Heart and Main Vessels

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Aortic coarctation is a congenital heart defect. This means a baby is born with it. The aorta does not develop properly when the baby is inside the mother.

Risk Factors

Aortic coarctation is more common in males. Other things that raise the risk are:


Aortic coarctation may or may not have symptoms. When present, symptoms may include:

  • Cold legs and feet
  • Problems breathing, especially with exercise
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Leg cramps after exercise
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chest pain


This condition is often diagnosed after the baby is born. If symptoms are mild, it may not be diagnosed until later.

The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will check the heart, pulse, and blood pressure. Infants and children may need to see a heart doctor.

Tests may include:


Treatment depends on how severe the condition is. Newborn babies with symptoms need supportive care. Some may need surgery or a procedure right away.

Treatment for aortic coarctation may include:

  • Medicines to help the heart and blood vessels work better
  • Surgery to remove the narrow section—then reconnect the good ends of the aorta
  • Balloon angioplasty—a balloon and stents are placed in the aorta to open it

Ongoing follow up will be needed with a heart doctor.

Balloon Angioplasty

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There are no current guidelines to prevent aortic coarctation.


American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
University of Ottawa Heart Institute


Coarctation of aorta. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2021.
Coarctation of the aorta. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed July 16, 2021.
Coarctation of the aorta (CoA). American Heart Association website. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2021.
Congenital heart defects. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2021.
Kim YY, Andrade L, et al. Aortic Coarctation. Cardiol Clin. 2020;38(3):337-351.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/16/2021

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