Preparing for your appointment

If you or your child develops signs and symptoms common to coarctation of the aorta, call your doctor. After an initial exam, it's likely that the doctor will refer you or your child to a doctor trained in the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions (cardiologist).

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down any signs and symptoms you or your child has had, and for how long.
  • Write down key medical information, including any other health conditions and the names of any medications you or your child is taking.
  • Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
  • Write down the questions you want to be sure to ask your doctor.

Questions to ask the doctor at the initial appointment include:

  • What is likely causing these symptoms?
  • Are there any other possible causes for these symptoms?
  • What tests are needed?
  • Should a specialist be consulted?

Questions to ask if you're referred to a cardiologist include:

  • Do I or does my child have coarctation of the aorta?
  • How severe is the defect?
  • Did tests reveal any other heart defects?
  • What is the risk of complications from coarctation of the aorta?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?
  • If you're recommending medications, what are the possible side effects?
  • If you're recommending surgery, what type of procedure is most likely to be effective? Why?
  • What will be involved in recovery and rehabilitation after surgery?
  • How often should my child or I be seen for follow-up exams and tests?
  • What signs and symptoms should I watch for at home?
  • What is the long-term outlook for this condition?
  • Do you recommend any dietary or activity restrictions?
  • Do you recommend taking antibiotics before dental appointments or other medical procedures?
  • Is it safe for a woman with coarctation of the aorta to become pregnant?
  • What is the risk that my or my child's future children will have this defect?
  • Should I meet with a genetic counselor?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time if you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor

A doctor who sees you or your child for possible coarctation of the aorta might ask a number of questions.

If you're the person affected:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms gotten worse over time?
  • Do your symptoms include shortness of breath?
  • Do your symptoms include headache or dizziness?
  • Do your symptoms include chest pain?
  • Do your symptoms include cold feet?
  • Have you had any weakness or leg cramps with exercise?
  • Have you ever fainted?
  • Do you have frequent nosebleeds?
  • Does exercise or physical exertion make your symptoms worse?
  • Have you been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
  • What medications are you currently taking, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, as well as vitamins and supplements?
  • Are you aware of any history of heart problems in your family?
  • Do you or did you smoke? How much?
  • Do you have any children?
  • Are you planning to become pregnant in the future?

If your baby or child is affected:

  • What are your child's symptoms?
  • When did you first notice these symptoms?
  • Is your child gaining weight at a normal rate?
  • Does your child have any breathing problems, such as running out of breath easily or breathing rapidly?
  • Does your child tire easily?
  • Does your child sweat heavily?
  • Does your child seem irritable?
  • Do your child's symptoms include chest pain?
  • Do your child's symptoms include cold feet?
  • Has your child been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
  • Is your child currently taking any medications?
  • Are you aware of any history of heart problems in your child's family?
  • Is there a history of congenital heart defects in your child's family?