MedTerm Corner

Coarctation of the Aorta diagram

MedTerm Corner

Welcome to UMHS Interpreter Services MedTerm Corner!

I would like to share with you some of the medical terms we encounter working in the field of medical interpreting. Some of the terms are very common and some of them are extremely rare and we do not hear those terms often. If you have bumped into interesting/ questionable/ unknown term, please, share this with me, so we can discuss it together.

Recently, I interpreted for a patient diagnosed with Coarctation of the Aorta. So, what is Coarctation?

Coarctation (ko-ahrk-TAY-shun) of the aorta — or aortic coarctation — is a narrowing of the aorta, the large blood vessel that branches off the heart and delivers oxygen-rich blood to our body. Another medical term for a narrowing is – stenosis. When this occurs, the heart must pump harder to force blood through the narrow part of the aorta.

Coarctation of the aorta is generally present at birth (congenital). Congenital means that the problem developed before birth and the baby was already born with the defect. Coarctation of the aorta can range from mild to severe, and might not be detected until adulthood, depending on how narrowed the aorta is. Coarctation of the aorta often occurs along with other heart defects. While surgical treatment for coarctation of the aorta is usually successful, it’s a condition that requires careful follow-up through adulthood.

Coarctation of the aorta symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. Most people don’t have symptoms. Children with serious aortic narrowing may show signs and symptoms earlier in life, but mild cases with no symptoms might not be diagnosed until adulthood. People may also have signs or symptoms of other heart defects that they have along with coarctation of the aorta.

Babies with severe coarctation of the aorta may begin having signs and symptoms shortly after birth. These include:

  • Pale skin
  • Irritability
  • Heavy sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty feeding

While the blood pressure is high in the arms, the blood pressure is often lower in the legs of those with coarctation of the aorta. Left untreated, aortic coarctation in babies might lead to heart failure or death.

Some years ago doctors performed a surgery almost immediately after birth. Nowadays, they prefer to wait till the baby grows and becomes stronger before performing a surgery. If babies do not have severe symptoms or changes doctors prefer to wait till the baby is 1 year old, following the baby closely at the Pediatric Cardiology clinic.

Some material was taken from

Rita Galin
Supervisor, Russian Interpreter at UMHS Interpreter Services
Rita was born in Estonia, but her native language is Russian. She has a medical degree from Tartu State University (Tartu, Estonia), one of the oldest universities in Europe. She completed an internship in Neurology and Neurosurgery, attended and completed Adolescent Pathophysiology courses in Continuing Medical Education Institute, and worked as a Neurologist at the Adolescent Outpatient Clinic in Tallinn, Estonia. Rita’s clinical interests are in Adolescent Neurologic Pathophysiology as well as Young Adult Psychology.

Rita has worked for the University of Michigan Health System since 1995 as a Medical Interpreter, and was one of the first two staff Medical Interpreters at UMHS. She has presented on Cultural Specifics and Differences between medical systems in the former Soviet Union and the US. She has assisted in the creation of a video training on clear communications with LEP patients through an Interpreter for medical students at UMHS.

Rita is one of the creators of and the only instructor of the UMHS Interpreter Services course Medical Terminology and Body Systems, a 40-hour training that is national accredited by CCHI. She is also a member of the Diversity at the End of Life Committee at UMHS.

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