NCLEX Coarctation of the Aorta

NCLEX Coarctation of the Aorta

NCLEX Coarctation of the Aorta

Coarctation Of The Aorta

Coarctation of the aorta is a birth defect in which a part of the aorta is narrower than usual.If the narrowing is severe enough and if it is not diagnosed, the baby may have serious problems and may need surgery or other procedures soon after birth. For this reason, coarctation of the aorta is often considered a critical congenital heart defect. The defect occurs when a baby’s aorta does not form correctly as the baby grows and develops during pregnancy. The narrowing of the aorta usually happens in the part of the blood vessel just after the arteries branch off to take blood to the head and arms, near the patent ductus arteriosus, although sometimes the narrowing occurs before or after the ductus arteriosus. In some babies with coarctation, it is thought that some tissue from the wall of ductus arteriosus blends into the tissue of the aorta. When the tissue tightens and allows the ductus arteriosus to close normally after birth, this extra tissue may also tighten and narrow the aorta.

The narrowing, or coarctation, blocks normal blood flow to the body. This can back up flow into the left ventricle of the heart, making the muscles in this ventricle work harder to get blood out of the heart. Since the narrowing of the aorta is usually located after arteries branch to the upper body, coarctation in this region can lead to normal or high blood pressure and pulsing of blood in the head and arms and low blood pressure and weak pulses in the legs and lower body.

If the condition is very severe, enough blood may not be able to get through to the lower body. The extra work on the heart can cause the walls of the heart to become thicker in order to pump harder. This eventually weakens the heart muscle. If the aorta is not widened, the heart may weaken enough that it leads to heart failure. Coarctation of the aorta often occurs with other congenital heart defects.

Signs and Symptoms

Coarctation of the aorta symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. Most people don’t have symptoms. Children with serious aortic narrowing may show signs and symptoms earlier in life, but mild cases with no symptoms might not be diagnosed until adulthood. People may also have signs or symptoms of other heart defects that they have along with coarctation of the aorta.

Babies with severe coarctation of the aorta may begin having signs and symptoms shortly after birth. These include:
  • Pale skin
  • Irritability
  • Heavy sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty feeding


The causes of heart defects, including coarctation of the aorta, among most babies are unknown. Some babies have heart defects because of changes in their genes or chromosomes. Heart defects, like coarctation of the aorta, are also thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other risk factors, such as things the mother comes in contact with in the environment, what the mother eats or drinks, or medicines the mother uses.


Untreated coarctation of the aorta frequently leads to complications. Several of the complications may be a result of long-standing high blood pressure caused by the aortic coarctation. Complications are also possible after treatment for coarctation of the aorta.

Complications of coarctation of the aorta may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Enlargement in a section of the wall of the aorta (aneurysm)
  • Aortic rupture or tear (dissection)
  • Premature coronary artery disease — narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart
  • Heart failure
  • A weakened or bulging artery in the brain (brain aneurysm) or bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage)


Treatment options for coarctation of the aorta depend on your age at the time of diagnosis and the severity of your condition. Other heart defects might be repaired at the same time as aortic coarctation.

Treatment approaches usually consist of surgery or a procedure called balloon angioplasty.

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