Coarctation of the Aorta | Diagnosis

How is coarctation of the aorta diagnosed?

The first line of diagnosis for coarctation of the aorta is a clinical exam, beginning with obtaining the child’s vital signs. The pediatric cardiologist obtains a four-limb blood pressure — measuring the blood pressure in both arms and both legs. 

Coarctation of the aorta is suspected when the doctor notes a lower blood pressure in the legs. The child’s leg or foot pulses will be weak and therefore difficult for the doctor to feel. Other tests that help with the diagnosis — or with planning for treatment — may include:

Can coarctation of the aorta be diagnosed prenatally?

Coarctation of the aorta can sometimes be detected prenatally by fetal echocardiogram. But the aorta isn’t usually obstructed in the fetus because of the open ductus arteriosus (the fetal connection that ensures blood flow between the aorta and the pulmonary artery). The obstruction can become evident after birth once the ductus arteriosus closes.