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Heart Chambers and Valves  
heart anatomy

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Blood Flow Through the Heart  

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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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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.

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Risk Factors  

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

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Symptoms  

Symptoms may include:

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

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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.

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Prevention  

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