Coarctation of the Aorta

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(608) 263-1530
(608) 263-8915


Related Resources

Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program

Pediatric Congenital Heart Disease Program

The aorta is the large, cane-shaped vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Coarctation means that a section of the aorta is narrower than normal. The narrowed section can occur anywhere in the aorta. However, it usually occurs in the segment just after the aortic arch (the top of the cane).
Concerns and Symptoms
Because the heart must do extra work to pump blood through the narrowed aorta, the heart muscle may become strained, enlarged, and less able to pump blood effectively. This leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
Adults with coarctation of the aorta will have higher blood pressure and pulse rates in the upper part of the body than the lower. Other symptoms include:
  • Dizziness
  • Cold legs or feet
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Chest pain

Some adults with this disorder may have had the defect repaired as a newborn, but because the coarctation has returned, another repair is required.




The operation to repair coarctation of the aorta is performed under general anesthesia, which means you will be asleep during surgery.


First, the surgeon makes an incision in the left side of the chest. The surgeon then redirects blood from the heart to a bypass machine. The bypass machine does the job of the heart and lungs during the operation.


The surgeon then spreads the ribs and moves the lung to the side, so the coarctation can be seen. The surgeon then removes the narrowed area of the aorta, and replaces the removed area with a Dacron™ graft.


The surgeon then closes the incision and applies bandages to the incision site.