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Diagnosis Heart & Vascular

Aortic Coarctation

If a person doesn't have severe symptoms at birth, the aortic coarctation may go unnoticed until adulthood. It is most commonly discovered in adults between the ages of 15 and 40, often because the doctor notices a heart murmur in a patient with high blood pressure. Rarely, a patient may come for emergency treatment because of aortic rupture, infection or cerebral bleeding.

Tests to determine whether a coarctation is present include:

  • Blood pressure is checked to see whether there is lower blood pressure or reduced pulse in the legs compared to the arms
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which records the heart's electrical activity
  • Chest X-ray to see the heart's size
  • Echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound examination of the heart
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce pictures of the heart

In addition, your doctor may use a cardiac catheterization procedure to inject a dye into the heart and to see on a moving picture X-ray how the heart and aorta are functioning.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.