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Definition

Double aortic arch is a type of vascular ring heart defect. In a normal heart, the blood flows in from the body to the right atrium, goes into the right ventricle, and then goes to the lungs to pick up fresh oxygen. The blood returns to the left atrium, goes into the left ventricle, and goes out to the rest of the body through a large artery called the aorta.

With a double aortic arch, the aorta branches into right and left tubes, instead of just being one large tube. The two tubes can circle around and compress the airways and/or esophagus.

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heart anatomy

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Blood Flow Through the Heart


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Causes

Double aortic arch is a congenital defect. This means that the baby is born with the condition. It is not known exactly why the heart develops abnormally in some babies.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing double aortic arch are not well known.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lung infections
  • Poor feeding, including vomiting and choking
  • Trouble swallowing, including choking
  • Vomiting
  • Acid reflux
Diagnosis

While this condition may be detected in infancy, it is often found later.

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

Your child's bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

Your child's heart activity may need to be measured. This can be done with an electrocardiogram.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:

Surgery

If your child is having symptoms like difficulty breathing, surgery will be done. The goal of surgery is to tie off and close one of the extra branches. After this is done, symptoms may improve right away or gradually over time.

Lifelong Monitoring

Your child will have regular exams from a heart specialist.

Prevention

There is no known way to prevent double aortic arch. Getting appropriate prenatal care is always important.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

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

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

References:

Double aortic arch. Johns Hopkins University, Cove Point Foundation website. Available at: http://www.pted.org/?id=doubleaortic1. Updated May 16, 2011. Accessed July 19, 2013.

Vascular ring. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1942/mainpageS1942P0.html. Accessed July 19, 2013.



Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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