Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA)


Coarctation of the aorta (CoA) is a congenital (present from birth) heart defect where a part of the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body, is too narrow or constricted.  The narrowing impedes normal blood flow, causing increased blood pressure in the upper body and reduced blood flow to the lower body. This condition can lead to serious cardiovascular complications if left untreated.   

Treatment for CoA in Cuba include balloon angioplasty with / without stent and for sever cases surgical repair might be needed. The treatment aims to widen the narrowed section of the aorta to improve blood flow and reduce the strain on the heart.  

If left untreated, CoA can lead to several serious health complications, including: 

  • High Blood Pressure increasing the risk of stroke 
  • Heart Failure 
  • Aortic Aneurysm or Rupture 
  • Brain Hemorrhage 
  • Organ Damage 
  • Claudication 
  • Re-Coarctation 


CoA is congenital and occurs as a result of abnormal development of the aorta during fetal growth, though the exact cause remains unknown. It is believed that genetic factors may play a role, as CoA can be associated with certain genetic conditions like Turner syndrome. Less common, CoA may develop later in life due to conditions such as severe atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) or inflammation of the aorta. 


Individuals with mild cases may be asymptomatic, making the condition hard to detect until later in life. In more severe cases, symptoms can appear in infancy or early childhood. Common symptoms include:  

  • High blood pressure, particularly in the arms 
  • Headaches 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain 
  • Cold legs and feet 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Poor growth in infants 


CoA is often diagnosed during a routine physical exam or when symptoms lead to further medical investigation. Diagnostic tests include: 

  • Echocardiogram: This is a non-invasive test that uses ultrasound waves to provide detailed images of the heart and aorta, allowing for a comprehensive visualization of the narrowing and for assessing its severity. An echocardiogram can also reveal other associated heart abnormalities and evaluate the heart’s function. 
  • Chest X-ray: This test provides a clear image of the heart and surrounding structures and can reveal signs of heart enlargement and rib notching. X-ray images are used mostly for initial diagnostic. 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This is a crucial part for diagnosing CoA due to its ability to provide detailed, three-dimensional images of the heart and blood vessels. MRI offers a detailed view of the cardiovascular anatomy and hence can accurately pinpoint the location and extent of the narrowing in the aorta. This imaging technique is particularly useful for assessing the severity of CoA and identifying any associated abnormalities or complications, such as aortic aneurysms. 
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: This test provides highly detailed and precise images of the heart and aorta and can accurately identify the exact location and severity of the aortic narrowing, as well as any related abnormalities.  
  • Cardiac Catheterization: This method is used to diagnose coarctation of the aorta when non-invasive imaging techniques provide inconclusive results or when detailed hemodynamic information is required.

This procedure involves inserting a catheter (thin, flexible tube) into a blood vessel and guiding it to the heart and aorta. During the procedure, detailed pressure measurements can be taken on either side of the narrowing to assess the severity of the obstruction. Additionally, cardiac catheterization also allows for immediate intervention, such as balloon angioplasty, to treat the narrowing. 

Treatment Options 

The goal of treatment for CoA is to correct the narrowing of the aorta, improve blood flow, and reduce the strain on the heart. Treatment option, however, depends on the patient’s age, the severity of the narrowing, and the presence of any other heart defects. Treatment options include: 


Minimally invasive Repair 

  • Medication: Medication is given to help manage symptoms like high blood pressure. 
  • Balloon Angioplasty with / without stent: This is a minimally invasive treatment mostly for older children and adults that involves inserting a catheter with a deflated balloon at its tip into a blood vessel, usually in the groin, and guiding it to the narrowed section of the aorta. Once positioned, the balloon is inflated to widen the constricted area, improving blood flow. In some cases, a stent is placed to keep the aorta open after the balloon is deflated and removed.  


Surgical Repair 

Surgical repair is typically carried out for individuals with severe cases or when balloon angioplasty is not suitable. The surgery involves various techniques depending on the patient’s condition, including: 

  • Resection with End-to-End Anastomosis: The narrowed section of the aorta is surgically removed, and the two healthy ends are stitched together. 
  • Subclavian Flap Aortoplasty: A portion of the left subclavian artery is used to enlarge the narrowed area. This technique is often used in infants and young children. 
  • Patch Aortoplasty: A synthetic patch or a patch made from the patient’s own tissue is used to widen the narrowed section of the aorta. 
  • Bypass Grafting: A graft is used to bypass the narrowed section, creating a new path for blood flow. 



  • Electronic patient bed
  • Equipment for disabled patient
  • Oxygen hookup
  • Three à la carte meals taking into account the patient’s preferences and / or special diets prescribed by physician
  • Fully equipped private bathroom
  • Infirmary and nursing care
  • Colour TV with national and international channels
  • Local and international phone services (extra cost will apply)
  • Safe box
  • Internet service on every floor
  • Laundry services


  • Assistance in visa issuance and extension (If needs be)
  • Each patient/ companion will be assigned a multi-lingual field member with the mandate of attending to all of our patients’ translation and personal needs;
  • 20 hours internet service;
  • Local airport pickup and drop off; and
  • Hospital pickup and drop off (if needed)

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