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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:
While vascular ring may be detected in infancy, it is often discovered later in life.
Heart and Main Vessels
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Causes

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.

Risk Factors

Specific risk factors for vascular ring are not known.

Symptoms

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.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

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 formation of a vascular ring. Getting appropriate prenatal care is always important.

RESOURCES

American Family Physician http://www.aafp.org/

American Heart Association http://www.americanheart.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca/

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca/splash/

References

Children’s Hospital Boston. Vascular ring. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1942/mainpageS1942P0.html. Accessed July 23, 2010.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Vascular rings. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/heart-encyclopedia/anomalies/rings.htm. 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.

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