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Aortic Coarctation—Adult

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention


The aorta is the main artery carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Aortic coarctation is the narrowing of the aorta which slows or blocks the blood flow. It is often associated with other heart and vascular conditions, like abnormal heart valves or blood vessel outpouching. These conditions carry a risk of additional future problems.

Heart and Main Vessels


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Aortic coarctation is a congenital heart defect, which means it is present at birth. It occurs because of a problem with the development of the aorta while the fetus in the womb.

Risk Factors

Men are at increased risk. Other factors that increase your chances of having aortic coarctation include:


Aortic coarctation may or may not have symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Cold legs and feet
  • Shortness of breath, especially with exercise
  • Lightheadedness
  • Leg cramps after exercise
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nosebleeds
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your internal structures. This can be done with:


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:


The narrow section of the aorta can be removed surgically. The 2 healthy ends can be reconnected.

Balloon Angioplasty

A tiny catheter tube is inserted into a blood vessel in the leg and threaded up to the aorta. There, a balloon is inflated to expand the narrow area. A stent may be placed to keep the area open.

Balloon Angioplasty

Nucleus Image

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Since aortic coarctation is a congenital defect, it cannot be prevented.





  • Coarctation of aorta. DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 5, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2015.
  • Coarctation of the aorta. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated January 8, 2015. Accessed March 11, 2015.
  • Coarctation of the aorta. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Updated May 2013. Accessed March 11, 2015.
  • What are congenital heart defects? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed March 11, 2015.

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