Coarctation of the Aorta

Heart with Coarctation of the Aorta

Animation of a heart with coarctation of the aorta

Note: To view the animation of a heart with coarctation of the aorta, you need the latest version of the Adobe Flash Player.


The aorta is the main artery that sends oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Coarctation refers to a narrowing of the aorta, usually found in the descending aorta, which hinders blood flow to the lower half of the body. This forces the left ventricle to work harder to pump blood past the constriction. This leads to an increase in pressure in the left ventricle causing hypertrophy (enlargement) of the ventricle.

Surgical repair is required to correct coarctation of the aorta and may be done using one of two approaches. The first method, known as an "end-to-end anastomosis", involves cutting out the narrowed portion of the aorta and connecting the two ends together. In the second approach, a patch is used to widen the narrowed portion of the aorta. The patch material may be a blood vessel from the arm (subclavian artery) or synthetic material.


What is Normal Cardiac Anatomy?

When your child has a congenital heart defect, there's usually something wrong with the structure of his or her heart's structure.

 
Learn More About Normal Cardiac Anatomy

Heart with Normal Cardiac Anatomy

Note: To view heart animations, you need the latest version of the
Adobe Flash Player.


When your child has a congenital heart defect, there's usually something wrong with the structure of his or her heart's structure.

The heart is composed of four chambers. The two upper chambers, known as atria, collect blood as it flows back to the heart. The two lower chambers, known as ventricles, pump blood with each heartbeat to the two main arteries (the pulmonary artery and the aorta). The septum is the wall that divides the heart into right and left sides. The atrial septum separates the right and left atria; likewise, the ventricular septum separates the two ventricles.

There are four valves that control the flow of blood through the heart. These flap-like structures allow blood to flow in only one direction. The tricuspid and mitral valves, also known as the atrioventricular valves, separate the upper and lower chambers of the heart. The aortic and pulmonary valves, also known as the arterial valves, separate the ventricles from the main arteries. Oxygen-depleted blood returns from the body and drains into the right atrium via the superior and inferior vena cavas. The blood in the right atrium then passes through the tricuspid valve and enters the right ventricle.

Next, the blood passes through the pulmonary valve, enters the pulmonary artery, and travels to the lungs where it is replenished with oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood returns to the heart via the pulmonary veins, draining into the left atrium. The blood in the left atrium passes through the bicuspid, or mitral, valve and enters the left ventricle.

Finally, the oxygen-rich blood flows through the aortic valve into the aorta and out to the rest of the body.