Vascular Ring | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is a vascular ring diagnosed?

If your child has any symptoms of a vascular ring — particularly noisy breathing or a weak pulse — their doctor may refer you for testing. They may order one or more of the following tests to help diagnose this condition:

The gold standard for evaluating and identifying vascular rings is a computed tomography (CT) scan. This technique allows physicians to visualize your child’s vascular anatomy properly. Vascular rings can be diagnosed at any age, including while a child is still in the womb.

What are the treatment options for a vascular ring?

Children who with vascular rings but no symptoms usually don’t need surgical treatment. However, those who have symptoms from vascular rings typically require to surgery to relieve pressure on their airway and esophagus. Surgeons may use a variety of techniques to accomplish this, including:

  • complete resection of the diverticulum of Kommerell, which is typically left as an out-pouching of the aorta and compresses the esophagus and airway from the back
  • descending aortopexy, which moves the descending aorta to the side of the spine so it doesn’t compress the airway
  • rotation esophagoplasty, which moves the esophagus out of the airway so it doesn’t contribute to airway compression and can’t be compressed itself by the aorta and airway
  • posterior tracheobronchopexy, which keeps the airways open in children with vascular rings who also have tracheobronchomalacia below the narrow, compressed region of the airway. Occasionally, these children will also need anterior airway support to completely open the airways.
  • aortic uncrossing, which reroutes the aorta and can be combined with the airway procedure

Boston Children’s is the only hospital to repair vascular rings with a combination of these procedures in one comprehensive surgical procedure.