Blood circulation allows all body parts to receive oxygen and nutrients, both of which are required for cellular functionality. However, when diseases affect the cardiovascular system, it can result in serious, sometimes even fatal, complications. This entire system focuses on circulating blood, drawing oxygen from the lungs, and infusing nutrients we receive through food. When cardiovascular diseases develop, the efficacy of these functions can be adversely affected. Coarctation of the aorta is one particular condition that can significantly affect the blood supply to the body. While the condition is usually present at birth, many cases are only identified and diagnosed when the patient reaches adulthood.
We take a closer look at the coarctation of the aorta in this post. In addition, our post discusses the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments that can be used to correct this particular issue.
What Is Coarctation Of The Aorta?
When it comes to looking at the coarctation of the aorta, it is important that we first consider what the aorta is and its functions. The aorta is considered the major artery of the heart. It is also the biggest artery that is present in the human body. This particular artery helps move blood from the heart to all areas of the body, allowing cells to obtain the nutrients and oxygen they require to function properly.
Coarctation of the aorta refers to a condition where a part of the aorta is narrowed. Any region of the aorta artery can be affected by this condition. It is, however, essential to note that most cases are related to the area that sits close to the ductus arteriosus. The ductus arteriosus is also a blood vessel that is part of the cardiovascular system.
The narrowed part of the aorta makes it harder for blood to flow toward other parts of the body. To provide efficacy in terms of blood circulation, the cardiovascular system starts to work harder. The result is increased pressure placed on the heart. While this may not cause initial problems, the heart’s muscles can become weaker over time. It is also possible for the condition to cause an enlargement of the heart, which can produce further problems.
Coarctation of the aorta is often viewed as a type of congenital disability. In most cases, the defect is already present at birth, but it is usually only diagnosed at a later stage. Many people will also only have mild symptoms at first, but the continuous strain placed on the heart can develop serious symptoms later on.
The condition will generally improve when treated, but patients must understand that lifelong monitoring is required. This helps to ensure a recurrence of the condition can be effectively identified before it causes serious complications in the future.
Signs And Symptoms
If coarctation of the aorta is mild, then patients will usually not be diagnosed at an early stage. The patient may be unaware of the condition up to the point where abnormal sounds in the heart are heard during a physical examination. When symptoms do develop, it usually indicates a moderate to severe condition.
It has been noted that certain symptoms may present in babies who have a severe case of the condition. Some of these symptoms can include:
● Problems with breathing
● The parent may find it difficult to feed the baby
● The baby may seem irritable
● There may be heavy sweating
● Pale skin is also something that has been noted
If the condition is not detected in an infant, it may cause the following to show up later in life:
● Struggling with high blood pressure
● Cramps in the feet and legs
● Physical weakness
● Consistent headaches
● Pain in the chest
Coarctation Of The Aorta Causes
There is no fixed cause behind the coarctation of the aorta. Doctors aren’t completely sure what causes the condition, and further research is still required to provide more details on this subject. With this said, it’s important to note that this is often related to a congenital disability. Thus, when a baby is born with a congenital heart defect, they may be at risk of this particular condition. Even when undiagnosed and not detected during infancy, the congenital disability may develop into serious problems during the individual’s adulthood.
There are rare occasions where coarctation of the aorta develops later in a person’s life and is not related to a congenital disability. This may be the result of a traumatic injury that affected the chest. In cases where a person has severe atherosclerosis, this may also be considered as a contributing factor. Some patients with Takayasu’s arteritis, a condition where arteries become inflamed, may also develop coarctation of the aorta in some cases.
Apart from these, it is important that some connections have been made between the coarctation of the aorta and other heart diseases. The following cardiovascular conditions may be risk factors for coarctation of the aorta:
● Congenital mitral valve stenosis
● Bicuspid aortic valve
● Subaortic stenosis
● Holes in the septum
● Patent ductus arteriosus
Diagnosis And Treatment
Coarctation of the aorta is often only diagnosed by the time the individual is an adult, particularly in cases where the condition is not serious. When the congenital disability is serious, then it will usually be detected during infancy. There are also some cases where a sonogram taken during pregnancy reveals signs of the condition.
For an accurate diagnosis to be made, doctors may run a couple of tests. These tests not only help the doctor diagnose the condition but can also help determine its severity. Tests may include an X-ray of the chest, magnetic resonance imaging, an electrocardiogram, or an echocardiogram. Sometimes, cardiac catheterization, CT angiogram, and a CT scan may also be used to assist in the diagnostics process.
Treatment depends on how serious the constriction in the aorta is and the complications caused by the defect. Unfortunately, there aren’t drugs that can repair the coarctation, but some medications can be used to help with the management of symptoms. This may include using medications to regulate blood pressure, as hypertension is a common complication associated with the condition.
Certain procedures can be used to fix the area where the constriction is present. Common procedures used to repair the coarctation include subclavian flap aortoplasty, bypass graft repair, and patch aortoplasty. Sometimes, balloon angioplasty is used in the treatment of the condition. It is also possible to resection the aorta through a procedure known as end-to-end anastomosis.
The heart has a vital role to play in the human body, but its functionality can be affected by a large number of conditions. For example, coarctation of the aorta is a condition that can result in serious blood flow problems and is often associated with a congenital heart defect. Therefore, patients should understand the risks and learn how to recognize early signs of the condition. In some cases, detection can occur during a physical examination, allowing for an early diagnosis and a more efficient treatment plan.