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Symptoms of Coarctation of the Aorta

Symptoms of coarctation develop because the upper parts of the body get too much blood and the lower parts do not get enough.

In mild cases, where the aorta is slightly narrowed, babies may not have any symptoms.

If they do have symptoms, they might have these:

  • Working hard to breathe
  • Having poor appetite or trouble feeding
  • Failure to thrive
  • Cool arms and legs

Later on, children may develop symptoms related to problems with blood flow and an enlarged heart. They may feel dizzy or short of breath, faint, have chest pain, be abnormally tired, get headaches or nosebleeds, have cold legs and feet, or have pain in their legs when they exercise.

In more severe cases, where the aorta is very narrow, babies may develop serious problems soon after birth because not enough blood can get through the aorta to the rest of their body.

Coarctation of the Aorta Diagnosis

Even though the narrow spot exists before birth, this condition may not be diagnosed until a routine exam reveals problems with your child’s pulse or blood pressure.

Your doctor will examine your child, use a stethoscope to listen to their heart and check their blood pressure in their arms and legs.

The doctor will ask for details about any symptoms your child has, their health history and your family health history.

To get more information about how their heart looks and works, your child will need some tests. Your doctor will probably want to use echocardiography and an electrocardiogram.

Sometimes the doctor needs more information and will use chest X-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the heart, CT (computed tomography) scan, or angiography. For an older child, the doctor may do exercise testing.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

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Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)