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:
While vascular ring may be detected in infancy, it is often discovered later in life.
Heart and Main Vessels
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Vascular ring is a congenital defect. This means that the baby is born with the condition. During fetal growth in the womb, the large vessels near the heart do not develop normally. It is not known exactly why some children’s vessels develop in this way.
Specific risk factors for vascular ring are not known.
Symptoms vary and can range from mild to severe. They may include:
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If your child has any of these, tell the doctor right away.
Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
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.
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.
Your child will have regular exams from a heart specialist.
There is no way to prevent formation of a vascular ring. Getting appropriate prenatal care is always important.
American Family Physician
American Heart Association
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Children’s Hospital Boston. Vascular ring. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://www.childre... . Accessed July 23, 2010.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Vascular rings. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.cincinn... . Accessed July 23, 2010.
Johns Hopkins University, Cove Point Foundation. Vascular ring. Johns Hopkins University, Cove Point Foundation website. Available at: http://www.pted.org/?id=vascularring2 . Accessed July 9, 2010.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 6/20/2013