Vascular rings occur during fetal development due to an abnormal formation of the aorta (the artery that delivers oxygen to the body) and the surrounding blood vessels. These vessels form a ring around the trachea (brings air to the lungs) and the esophagus (brings food to the stomach). Vessels in the wrong position may cause pressure on these structures.
Our team treats the following types of vascular rings:
Symptoms of a vascular ring can vary. Some children never develop symptoms. The more pressure the rings apply to the trachea and esophagus, the more severe the symptoms will be.
Vascular rings can cause noisy breathing "stridor" while inhaling and exhaling. Other problems can include breathing or swallowing difficulties and choking. Some infants have difficulty breathing at birth and may need to be intubated (have a breathing tube inserted) in order to bring air to the lungs. Swallowing difficulties tend to occur when children are older and not as infants.
Vascular rings are diagnosed in several different ways. A vascular ring may be diagnosed pre-natally (before birth), or post-natally (after birth), during an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). During this test, heart vessels are scanned for their placement in relation to the airway and esophagus.
All patients require a CT (computerized tomography) scan or cardiac MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) evaluation of the chest and a bronchoscopy by an Otolaryngology (ENT) specialist.
Typically, these studies can be accomplished within one day. All patients are evaluated by a multidisciplinary team which includes Otolaryngology, Medical Imaging and Cardiology.
Lurie Children’s surgeons have pioneered several procedures to advance the methods used to correct many kinds of vascular rings. Vascular rings must be surgically corrected. This can be done either through a left thoracotomy or a median sternotomy. If a left thoracotomy is used, you should expect a 2-day hospital stay. A median sternotomy requires cardiopulmonary bypass and therefore, has a longer recovery of 5-7 days.
To learn more about treatment offered at Lurie Children's, visit our Vascular Rings Program page.
If you’d like to request an appointment with one of our specialists, call 1.800.543.7362 (1.800.KIDS DOC®).
For families or providers seeking a second opinion, we offer a Priority Second Opinion Clinic.
To help prepare families for their care with Lurie Children's Heart Center, we have compiled a list of resources about treatment and recovery. Learn how to get ready for an inpatient stay or outpatient visit, and read about our support services for patients and families.