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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board

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 pressed by the “ring” formed by these vessels. The defect can be:

  • Double aortic arch
  • Right aortic arch

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

Heart and Aortic Arch
BP00015 96472 1 aorta.jpg
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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. A child may have:

  • Problems breathing
  • Difficulty eating solid foods
  • 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

Children with symptoms will need surgery. The goal of surgery is to divide the vascular ring. This will ease pressure on the trachea and esophagus.

Lifelong monitoring will be needed by a heart specialist.

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES

American Heart Association  http://www.heart.org 

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics  http://www.healthychildren.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cardiovascular Society  http://www.ccs.ca 

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada  http://www.heartandstroke.com 

References

Licari A, Manca E, et al. Congenital vascular rings: a clinical challenge for the pediatrician. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2015 May;50(5):511-524.

Vascular ring in children. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/vascular-ring. Accessed November 5, 2020.

Vascular rings. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/v/rings. Accessed November 5, 2020.

Vascular rings and slings. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vascular-rings-and-slings. Accessed November 5, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 05/12/2020