Definition

A vascular ring is a defect of the aorta and nearby large vessels. The aorta is the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the body. Sometimes, the aorta and nearby large vessels form in unusual positions. The trachea and esophagus can become constricted by the “ring” formed by these vessels. The defect can be:

  • Double aortic arch
  • Right aortic arch

It may be found when your child is a baby, but it is often found later in life.

Heart and Aortic Arch

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Causes

Vascular ring is present at birth. It is not known why the heart forms this way.

Risk Factors

The risk factors are not known.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary and can range from mild to severe. Your child may have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Lung problems
  • Poor feeding of solid food
  • Trouble swallowing

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Pictures may be taken of the heart and other structures. This can be done with:

An electrocardiogram (EKG) is used to measure the heart's electrical activity.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for your child. Your child may need:

The goal of surgery is to divide the vascular ring. This will ease pressure on the trachea and esophagus. It may even be done if your child has mild symptoms.

Before surgery, the doctor will treat your child’s symptoms. Your child will get proper nutrition if there are swallowing problems. If your child has an infection, antibiotics will be given.

Your child will have regular exams from a heart specialist.

Prevention

A vascular ring can’t be prevented.