Early diagnosis of coarctation of the aorta in children: A continuing dilemma

Frank Ing, Thomas J. Starc, Sylvia P. Griffiths, Welton M. Gersony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Because late repair of coarctation of the aorta (COA) is associated with premature cardiovascular disease in adult life, early detection and treatment is important. Objectives. To determine the timing of referral to see whether early detection of COA has improved in the past decade, to evaluate the pattern of and reasons for medical center referral, and to assess the clinical signs relating to the diagnosis of COA. Methods. The records of 50 consecutive patients older than 1 year who had surgical repair of COA from 1980 to 1990 were reviewed. The age of referral, pattern of referral, and presence of standard clinical signs of COA were analyzed, and data were compared with those from the previous decade. Results. The mean and median ages at referral were 8.4 and 5.8 years, respectively. Pediatricians accounted for 64% of the referrals. A specific diagnosis of COA was made in 2 (4%) of 50 patients before referral to a pediatric cardiologist. The most consistent clinical findings were a cardiac murmur and a systolic blood pressure gradient between the arms and legs of greater than 10 mm Hg, which were both present in all patients. Lower-extremity pulses were decreased in 37 (74%) and absent in 9 (18%). Forty-seven children (94%) had upper- extremity hypertension (>95th percentile for age); 25 (50%) had systolic blood pressure higher than 140 mm Hg. COA would have been missed in 82% of children if absent lower-extremity pulses were required as a diagnostic feature. These findings were similar to those reported by our institution in the previous decade, suggesting that early detection has not improved. Conclusions. The timing of, reasons for, and sources of referral for COA in this study, compared with data from the previous decade, indicate no improvement in early detection of COA by pediatricians. Screening all children for COA by routinely measuring upper- and lower-extremity blood pressures during at least one physical examination after the newborn period is mandatory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-382
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • coarctation of the aorta
  • diagnosis
  • repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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