Coarctation of the Aorta

If a baby needs treatment for coarctation of the aorta or interrupted aortic arch, then they will need to have surgery. The surgery will widen the artery or fill in the missing section.

Coarctation of the aorta in older children can be treated either with or without surgery. The non-surgical method uses a balloon catheter or stent.

A tube, called a catheter, is threaded into the heart via a vein and into the aorta past the narrowed area.  A balloon on the end of the catheter is then inflated and pulled back to stretch the narrow part of the aorta. In older children a stent, which is a metal cage inserted over the balloon, is left at the place where the artery was too narrow to keep the aorta wide open.

The other option is to have corrective surgery which will widen the aorta at the point where it is too narrow.

Surgery on the aorta is done through the left side of the chest, and the heart continues beating throughout the operation.

If your child has other heart defects, the surgery needed will depend on how the heart can best be modified to cope with the problems the child has.

For most children this kind of surgery is low risk, but it can depend on how well a child is otherwise. The surgery takes place close to the spine so there is a slight risk of damage to the nerves. The cardiologist or surgeon should discuss the risks with parents or carers before asking them to consent to the operation.

The length of time in hospital will usually be only a week or so, of which one or two days will be spent in the intensive care and high dependency unit. Of course, this depends on how well your child is before and after the surgery, and whether there are any complications.

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Author(s): Children’s Heart Federation
Last updated: 2009-12-09