The Vascular Rings Program treats children with severe vascular rings, using innovative and proven surgical methods to relieve pressure on the trachea and esophagus.
Vascular ring describes an unusual formation of the aorta and the blood vessels around it. Children are diagnosed with vascular rings when their trachea (the tube that carries air to the lungs) and their esophagus (the tube that carries food to the stomach) are circled by a ring of blood vessels. Typically, the ring puts pressure on the trachea and esophagus, which can make it hard to breathe and eat.
Lurie Children’s surgeons have pioneered a number of procedures to advance the methods used to correct many different kinds of vascular rings. Our physicians were the first in the world to successfully repair a pulmonary artery sling, and continue to operate on more pulmonary artery slings than any other hospital in North America.
We’ve also pioneered procedures such as the pericardial tracheoplasty, the tracheal autograft and Kommerell’s diverticulum.
Our significant historic contributions to the understanding and treatment of children with vascular ring include:
502 patients in 63 years, the largest reported series in North America
First PA sling repair in 1953
First pericardial tracheoplasty in 1982
First tracheal autograft in 1996
What to Expect
The diagnosis of vascular rings can occur in several different ways. However, all patients require a CT or MRI evaluation of the chest and, in addition, a bronchoscopic exam by one of our ENT colleagues. These patients also receive an echocardiogram of the heart. Typically, these studies can be accomplished within one day. All patients are evaluated by a multidisciplinary team including Ear-Nose-Throat physicians, Medical Imaging and Cardiology.
The vascular rings that are repaired through a left thoracotomy usually entail a two-day hospital stay for the simpler vascular rings and a five-day hospital stay for the more extensive procedures. Patients undergoing pulmonary artery sling repair are operated on through a median sternotomy, with the use of cardiopulmonary bypass. The average length of stay for these patients is five to seven days.
The results of vascular ring surgery are excellent – we haven’t had operative mortality in the past 30 years and more than 90% of our patients see their symptoms resolve.
The Vascular Rings Program is led by Carl L. Backer, MD. Dr. Backer is the surgical director of the Heart Transplant Program and the A.C. Buehler Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.