coarctation of the aorta

Coarctation of the aorta means a narrowing or actual interruption of the main blood vessel from the left side of the heart to the body (the aorta). Coarctations can range in severity from a slight narrowing of the aorta to complete interruption of the vessel. In these cases, collateral (detour) circulation around the blockage is all that keeps the patient alive until surgical correction can be achieved.

A coarctation may be initially missed on physical exam if the patient has a ventricular septal defect and the ductus arteriosus is still open. Once the ductus starts to close, the patient can get a lot worse very rapidly. Blood pressures that are lower in the legs than in the arms are the classic sign of coarctation.

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