The coarctation, or narrowing, prevents the body's natural blood flow. This can cause a backflow of blood into the left ventricle of the heart, forcing these muscles to pump blood out of the heart more forcefully. Aortic coarctation, which occurs when the aorta narrows after arteries branch to the upper body, can cause low blood pressure and weak pulses in the legs and lower body and normal or high blood pressure and pulse in the head and arms.
Enough blood may not be able to reach the lower body if the illness is really severe. The additional strain on the heart may result in larger heart walls that may pump more forcefully. This ultimately makes the cardiac muscle weaker. The heart may become as weak as to cause cardiac failure if the aorta is not expanded. Aortic coarctation frequently coexists with other congenital cardiac abnormalities.
The narrow aorta will need to be enlarged whenever symptoms appear, regardless of when the disease is discovered. Surgery or a process known as balloon angioplasty, which is carried out during cardiac catheterization, can be used to do this. A catheter, which is a small, flexible tube used in balloon angioplasty, is introduced into a blood artery and guided to the aorta. A balloon at the catheter's tip is inflated to widen the blood artery as soon as it reaches the aorta's constrictive region. To maintain the conduit open, a mesh-covered tube known as a stent may occasionally be implanted. The stent is more frequently used to initially expand the aorta or to re-widen it if the aorta starts to narrow again after surgery. In order to restore normal blood flow via the aorta, the narrowed section of the aorta is removed during surgery to treat a coarctation.
Children with coarctation of the aorta frequently have high blood pressure that requires medication treatment, even after surgery. Children and adults with coarctation of the aorta should see a cardiologist (a heart specialist) on a frequent basis to track their development and look for any additional health issues that might arise as they age.