The aorta is the major artery that carries blood away from the heart to the body. When someone has coarctation (ko-ark-TAY-shun) of the aorta (COA), it means the aorta is narrowed at some point.
When part of the aorta is narrowed, the defect (coarctation) can affect the body's blood circulation because the left side of the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the narrowed aorta. Sometimes the narrowing is minor and might not even cause symptoms. In other cases, the aorta may be more constricted, placing a strain on the heart's left ventricle (the chamber that pumps blood to the aorta and out to the body).
A coarctation can occur anywhere in the aorta, but most often is found just beyond the point where the arteries that carry blood to the upper body and head branch off from the aorta.
Doctors often recommend that COA be treated quickly, especially in teens and adults. The longer a COA is left untreated, the more likely it is that the person will have high blood pressure even after the COA is fixed. If it's left untreated indefinitely, the defect can be fatal in many people by the age of 40.
Surgery and other procedures are used to treat COAs. These include removing the narrow section and reconnecting the two good ends of the aorta, or using a procedure (called balloon dilation or balloon angioplasty) to expand the narrow area.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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