Health Information

Vascular Ring -- Child

Vascular Ring—Child

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. When the aorta and nearby large vessels form in abnormal positions, the trachea and esophagus can become constricted by the “ring” formed by these abnormal vessels. Examples of this type of defect include:
  • Double aortic arch
  • Right aortic arch
While vascular ring may be detected in infancy, it is often discovered later in life.
Heart and Aortic Arch
BP00015 96472 1 aorta.jpg
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Causes

Vascular ring is present at birth. It is not known exactly why the heart does not develop normally.

Risk Factors

Specific risk factors for vascular ring are not known.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary and can range from mild to severe. They may include:
  • Trouble breathing (wheezing, coughing, noisy breathing)
  • Lung infections
  • Poor feeding of solid food (vomiting or choking)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Acid reflux
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If your child has any of these, tell the doctor right away.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Imaging tests evaluate the heart and other structures. These may include:
An electrocardiogram (EKG) is used to measure the heart's electrical activity.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:

Surgery

The goal of surgery is to divide the vascular ring and relieve compression on the trachea and esophagus. This surgery may even be done if your child has minor symptoms.

Other Treatments

Before surgery, the doctor will treat your child’s symptoms. For example, the doctor will make sure that your child gets proper nutrition if he has swallowing problems. If your child has a bacterial respiratory infection, he will be treated with antibiotics.

Lifelong Monitoring

Your child will have regular exams from a heart specialist.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent the formation of a vascular ring. Getting appropriate prenatal care is always important.

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.ca

References

Vascular ring in children. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/vascular-ring. Accessed June 16, 2015.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Vascular rings. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/v/rings. Updated November 2012. Accessed June 16, 2015.

Johns Hopkins Children's Center website. Vascular ring. Johns Hopkins University, Cove Point Foundation website. Available at: http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/Vascular-Ring.aspx. Accessed June 16, 2015.

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