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What are vascular rings and slings?

Vascular rings and slings are a birth defect in which abnormal arteries surround the trachea (the breathing tube that carries air to and from the lungs) and the esophagus (the tube that carries food to the stomach).

Vascular rings and slings can press on the trachea and esophagus and cause breathing and feeding problems. Children with this condition may have symptoms in infancy or early childhood and require treatment, but some do not.

Vascular Rings and Slings in Children

Before birth, it’s normal for babies to have some arches of tissue near their trachea and esophagus. As the baby develops, these arches should either turn into normal arteries or disappear. Rarely, these arches turn into vascular rings and slings.

Sometimes the abnormal structures wrap all the way around the trachea and esophagus. Sometimes they wrap part way around. This can still cause pressure and symptoms.

There are several types of rings and slings, named for where and how they formed. These are the most common types:

  • Double aortic arch. In this type, the aorta divides, with half going around one side of the trachea and esophagus and half going around the other side.
  • Right aortic arch with aberrant left subclavian artery and left ligamentum arteriosum. In this type, the aorta bends toward the right instead of the left as it leaves the heart. A ligament connects the pulmonary artery and one of the arteries that branch off the aorta, trapping the trachea and esophagus inside.

Your doctor can explain the type your child has.

Vascular Rings and Slings at Seattle Children’s

Our heart team has treated many children with vascular rings and slings. We have extensive experience with the surgical treatment these patients may require.

When you come to Children's, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child's cardiologist, you are connected with surgeons, neonatologists, pulmonologists (lung doctors), nurses, child life specialists, social workers and others, if their expertise is needed. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and help your family through this experience.

Since 1907, Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program shared by Children’s and the University of Washington can help with care throughout your child’s life.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Spring 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

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Download Spring 2014 (PDF)