Balloon dilation angioplasty (BDA) was attempted nine times in eight infants and children with aortic coarctation. In three infants (all with associated ventricular septal defect or atrioventricular canal and marked hemodynamic instability) dilation was attempted at a site of aortic narrowing that had not been operated on previously. Although the coarctation gradient fell 40% or more over the short term in two of the three, there was no angiographic or late gradient evidence of improvement. All three underwent subsequent coarctation surgery. Five dilations were performed in four infants and children who had previously undergone coarctation surgery (end-to-end anastomosis, attempted jump graft, and subclavian flap) and had residual gradients. Dilation was successful in all five cases, resulting in an increase in the diameter at the coarctation site (4.7 ± 2.6 to 7.7 ± 4.0 mm, p < .05) and a decrease in the gradient measured 24 hr after dilation (42.0 ± 15.5 to 11.8 ± 11.2 mm Hg, p < .05). In one child with a long area of hypoplasia of the thoracic aorta and similar lesions of the brachiocephalic vessels, a preliminary attempt to dilate a severely narrowed subclavian artery was unsuccessful. Postdilation angiography demonstrated evidence of intimal tears in three of five successful dilations. Follow-up (1 to 6 months) has demonstrated continued gradient relief in four of five children. BDA is frequently, but not always, a successful treatment for human aortic coarctation. The chief determinant of success appears to be the nature of the lesion; short-term changes in coarctation gradient are unreliable indicators of success or failure. Although BDA was not associated with mortality or significant morbidity in this group of patients, its role in the management of children with coarctation is yet to be determined.