Coarctation of the Aorta
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.
Concerns and Symptoms
The narrower the aorta, the more symptoms the child will have, and the earlier the disorder will be detected. Children with coarctation of the aorta will have weaker blood pressure and pulse rates in the lower part of the body. Other symptoms include heavy or rapid breathing, difficulty feeding or poor weight gain. In older children, symptoms may appear as high blood pressure or a heart murmur.
Over time, the child's heart must continue to do extra work to pump blood through the narrowed aorta. This can lead to high blood pressure later in life. In more severe cases, the heart muscle may enlarge and become less able to pump blood effectively. The child may then develop congestive heart failure.
The operation to repair coarctation of the aorta is performed under general anesthesia, which means the child will be asleep during surgery. The heart-lung bypass machine is not needed during the operation.
First the surgeon makes an incision in the left side of the chest. He then spreads the ribs and moves the lung to the side, so the coarctation can be seen. The surgeon then removes the narrowed area and sews the ends of the aorta back together. The surgeon then closes the incision and applies bandages to the incision site.