Balloon dilation is effective in the immediate relief of obstruction due to unoperated coarctation of the aorta. However, the long-term benefits and complications of this procedure have not been established. Thirty-three patients underwent balloon dilation of unoperated coarctation using a percutaneous technique from November 1983 to December 1985. High quality biplane angiography was performed before and after dilation. Follow-up was obtained in 20 patients from 6 to 31 months following dilation. Angiography was performed at follow-up in 10, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging in 10 and both NMR imaging and angiography in 3. Balloon dilation was successful in 31 of the 33 patients with a decrease in average systolic pressure gradient from 46 to 8 mm Hg. There was no significant change in gradient on follow-up physical examination and at recatheterization in 10 patients. In addition, there was no evidence of restenosis on follow-up angiography and NMR imaging. In two patients, a small aneurysm formed at the site of balloon dilation. Balloon dilation of unoperated coarctation is effective, providing lasting relief of coarctation gradient and no evidence of restenosis. However, because of the uncertain natural history of aneurysms after dilation, this procedure should be considered investigational until further follow-up on patients with and without an aneurysm is available.