Twenty-three adolescent and adult patients with native coarctation of the aorta underwent balloon dilatation. Dissection of the aorta developed in one patient. Data were collected on the remaining 22 patients. They ranged in age from 15 to 55 years (mean 23 +/- 9.2 years). Invasive measurement of the peak systolic gradient (PSG) and biplane angiography were performed before and immediately after angioplasty and at follow-up 4 to 48 months (mean 15 months) later. PSG before dilatation was 37 to 100 mm Hg (mean 66.9 +/- 19.9 mm Hg) and decreased to 0 to 30 mm Hg (mean 9.1 +/- 11 mm Hg) immediately after dilatation (p less than 0.001). Restenosis occurred in two patients 6 months after dilatation, and one patient had an incomplete dilatation. These three patients underwent successful redilatation and remained improved 12 to 19 months later. There was no significant change in gradient at repeat catheterization in the remaining 20 patients. PSG was 0 to 20 mm Hg (mean 5.8 +/- 7.2 mm Hg). Angiography showed that a small aneurysm developed in one patient immediately after dilatation and in another 6 months later. Eleven patients were restudied more than once, and no change in gradient or size of the aneurysm was noted at mean follow-up 25 months after dilatation. This study demonstrated that balloon angioplasty is an effective method of treating adolescent and adult patient with native coarctation of the aorta. However, because of the uncertain natural history of aneurysm after dilatation, this procedure should be considered investigational until much longer follow-up times are available.