Coarctation of the aorta is a type of congenital heart defect. Congenital heart defects are heart problems a baby is born with. These heart problems are usually diagnosed at or before birth.
The aorta is the large blood vessel that sends oxygen-rich blood (red blood) from the heart out to the body. Coarctation (say "ko-ark-TAY-shun") means a section of this blood vessel is narrowed or pinched. The heart has to work extra hard to pump the blood through it.
If the narrowing is severe, not enough blood can flow to the lower half of the body. Over time, this can damage the kidneys and the liver as well as weaken the heart.
Your doctor may hear abnormal heart sounds, such as a heart murmur, when he or she examines your newborn.
Your doctor will order tests to find the cause of abnormal sounds or of symptoms. The most common test used to identify this defect is called an echocardiogram, or "echo" for short. It uses sound waves to make an image of your baby's heart.
Your baby may have other tests, such as an ECG or EKG (electrocardiogram), chest X-ray, and checking the amount of oxygen in the blood.
A fetal ultrasound, which lets your doctor see an image of your baby before birth, sometimes finds this defect.
Newborns may have symptoms such as:
Your doctor will help you understand your baby's condition, your treatment choices, and what to expect from each choice.
Your baby may get medicine right away to relax the aorta and help make it wider. The medicine is called prostaglandin, or PGE. This treatment is temporary. Surgery is needed to repair the aorta.
In surgery, the doctor will take out the narrowed part of the aorta and then reattach the ends together. This allows the blood to flow the way it should.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
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Current as of: September 21, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & A. Evan Eyler, MD, MPH - Family Medicine, Psychiatry
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