A Guide to the Narrowing of the Aortic Artery

Causes

Narrowing of the aortic artery is most commonly caused by congenital birth defects, meaning that it occurs during incubation within the womb. For years, many just accepted the fact that this was a seemly genetic problem. However, studies also indicate that the environment during the pregnancy may also play a role in whether or not the infant develops this condition. In addition to this, infants with this disorder may commonly suffer from Turner Syndrome and other types of heart defects.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of aortic valve narrowing may not be present in all persons. As a matter of fact, sometimes these effects may not present until adolescence or adulthood. Signs and symptoms may also vary by the age of the patient. For example, infants are more likely to exhibit pallor, breathing difficulties, profuse sweating and are easily irritated. Although adults and children are often asymptomatic, they may deal with hypertension, frequent nosebleeds, headaches and shortness of breath. Other issues may consist of leg cramps and cold extremities.

Testing and Diagnosis

The severity of the condition will play a critical role in when it’s diagnosed. When diagnosed in infants, the situation is often critical, requiring acute medical attention. As with other states of disease and disorder, various tests may be utilized to confirm or refute a diagnosis of coarctation. This can include chest x-rays, cardiac catheterization and the echocardiogram for example. Other tests that may be used are the MRI and ECG. However, the physician may order additional testing, especially if or when he or she suspects the presence of other conditions.

Treatment Options

Without proper treatment, the lifespan of the individual may be significantly decreased and complications can become severe. In infants presenting symptoms shortly after birth, this often constitutes an immediate medical emergency. Treatment options generally consist of a procedure known as balloon angioplasty or surgery. Medications are not used to treat this problem, as it is caused by structural abnormalities within the aorta; however, medications may be used to manage the symptoms that accompany the condition. Another factor that will play a role in treatment options is the extent of the patient's condition.

Other Considerations

Narrowing of the aortic artery can cause severe complications that can eventually lead to death. However, with proper treatment, the person can often lead a normal life with minimal disruptions. Long term complications, even after treatment is often noted in some individuals. This usually consists of hypertension, which is typically controlled through the use of medications.

Bibliography

Aortic Coarctation. eMedicine. October 2008. Viewed 16, December 2010. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/150369-overview

Coarctation of the Aorta. Mayo Clinic. 2, March 2010. Viewed 16, December 2010. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coarctation-of-the-aorta/DS00616/DSECTION=symptoms

Coarctation of the Aorta. Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia. Updated 2, November 2009. Viewed 16, December 2010. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000191.htm