Learning About Mild Coarctation of the Aorta in Newborns

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Heart with narrowed aorta

What is coarctation of the aorta?

Coarctation of the aorta is a type of congenital heart defect. Congenital heart defects are heart problems a baby is born with.

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 that 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 gets worse, the heart may have to work harder. Sometimes it can lead to high blood pressure, which can also strain the heart. Over time, this can weaken the heart.

It can be scary to learn that there is something wrong with your baby's heart. The hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

How is coarctation of the aorta diagnosed?

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 find 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 EKG (electrocardiogram) or a chest X-ray. Another test may look at the amount of oxygen in the blood.

What are the symptoms?

In mild cases, there may be no symptoms.

If the narrowing is more severe, symptoms may include:

  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating while feeding.
  • Not eating well.
  • Being fussy a lot of the time.

How is it treated?

Mild cases may not cause problems and won't need treatment.

In more serious cases, surgery is needed to repair the aorta.

What can you expect?

Your doctor will make sure that you have all the information you need to take care of your baby at home. Regular checkups will help your doctor watch your baby for symptoms over time.

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.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: December 6, 2017