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Double Aortic Arch—Child


Double aortic arch is a type of vascular ring heart defect. In a normal heart, the blood flows in from the body to the right atrium, goes into the right ventricle, and then goes to the lungs to pick up fresh oxygen. The blood returns to the left atrium, goes into the left ventricle, and goes out to the rest of the body through a large artery called the aorta.

With a double aortic arch, the aorta branches into right and left tubes, instead of just being 1 large tube. The 2 tubes can circle around and compress the airways and/or esophagus.

Heart Chambers and Valves

heart anatomy
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Blood Flow Through the Heart

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Causes    TOP

Double aortic arch is a congenital defect. This means that the baby is born with the condition. It is not known exactly why the heart develops abnormally in some babies.

Risk Factors    TOP

Risk factors for developing double aortic arch are not well known.

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lung infections
  • Poor feeding, including vomiting and choking
  • Trouble swallowing, including choking
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis    TOP

While this condition may be detected in infancy, it is often found later.

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

Your child's bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

Your child's heart activity may need to be measured. This can be done with an electrocardiogram.

Treatment    TOP

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


If your child is having symptoms like difficulty breathing, surgery will be done. The goal of surgery is to tie off and close 1 of the extra branches. After this is done, symptoms may improve right away or gradually over time.

Lifelong Monitoring

Your child will have regular exams from a heart specialist.

Prevention    TOP

There is no known way to prevent double aortic arch. Getting appropriate prenatal care is always important.


American Heart Association
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Double aortic arch. Johns Hopkins University, Cove Point Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 16, 2011. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Vascular ring. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 6, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Karri Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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