What treatment options are available for coarctation of the aorta?
Treatment to help stabilise symptoms
If a newborn baby has severe coarctation of the aorta, they will first need to have treatment to help control their symptoms. This may include medicines to help treat any heart failure and sometimes they may need to have artificial ventilation to help with their breathing. They may also be given a special medicine that can help to keep the ductus arteriosus open so that blood can pass to the lower part of their body (below the narrowed aorta).
If a child has developed high blood pressure because of coarctation of the aorta, this may need treatment with medicines.
Treatment for the narrowed aorta
The narrowing of the aorta can be repaired using surgery. The surgeon will need to open up the chest so that they can get access to the heart and aorta to operate on them. A clamp is placed across the aorta to stop the flow of blood through it. Then, the narrowed section is cut out and the two normal-sized parts of the aorta are joined back together. Sometimes, if a large part of the aorta has to be removed due to narrowing, a patch (or graft) of special synthetic material is used to fill the gap and repair the aorta.
A newer way of treating coarctation of the aorta is by using balloon angioplasty. This may be used in older children and adults who have been diagnosed with the condition. A balloon catheter (a thin, flexible, hollow tube with a deflated balloon at the tip) is inserted into a large blood vessel, usually an artery in the groin. X-ray guidance is then used and the catheter is passed up through the blood vessels within the body until it reaches the narrowed part of the aorta. The balloon is then inflated within the narrowed section, making the narrowing wider. Sometimes, a small, expandable metal tube (a stent) is then placed in the narrowed segment to keep it open.
Further reading and references
Balloon angioplasty or stenting for coarctation or recoarctation of aorta; NICE Interventional Procedure Guidance, July 2004
Vijayalakshmi K, Griffiths A, Hasan A, et al; Late hazards after repair of coarctation of the aorta. BMJ. 2008 Apr 5336(7647):772-3.
Ijland MM, Tanke RB; Aortic coarctation. Circulation. 2009 Sep 29120(13):1294-5.
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