Vascular Ring Symptoms & Causes

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What causes vascular rings?

Normally, the aorta develops from one in a series of symmetrical arches. By the end of the second month of fetal development, the other arches are naturally broken down or formed into arteries. When a vascular ring occurs, certain arches that should have disappeared still remain and form a ring structure.
There are several types of vascular rings, but the two most common of these are:

  • Double aortic arch: With this anomaly, there are two aortic arches, one on the left side of the heart, one on the right. Typically, one of the arches, usually the right arch, is dominant and the other is small and underdeveloped. The trachea and esophagus are encircled by the two aortic arches.
  • Right aortic arch with aberrant subclavian and left ligamentum: Normally, the arch of the aorta curves left from the heart. In this kind of vascular ring, the aortic arch curves right. The left subclavian artery, which branches from the aortic arch, passes behind the esophagus, and a small ligament called the ligamentum arteriosus passes between the left subclavian artery and left pulmonary artery, completing the ring.

What are the symptoms of a vascular ring?

Since vascular rings encircle and press on the esophagus and trachea, your child may experience symptoms of obstruction. Symptoms range widely depending on how severe the compression is. Typically, if the condition is severe, symptoms occur during infancy, even as early as the first months of life. Common symptoms your child may experience include:

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