Emergency icon Important Updates
If your child constantly fusses, struggles to eat and can’t sleep at night, it might be more than “just a phase.”

Many little kids get finicky as they develop and usually grow out of it. But some don’t — and it may have to do with their heart. When your child is born with vascular rings, the main blood vessel in their heart (aorta) doesn’t form the way it should. And it can cause all sorts of serious problems with swallowing (dysphagia), breathing, mood and more.

The good news? Vascular rings are treatable. And when you work with Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatric cardiovascular providers, your child gets a team experienced in treating congenital (born with it) heart conditions with personalized treatment and compassionate support. Your child gets the treatment they need, when they need it, so they can get back to having fun.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic Children’s for Vascular Rings Care?

trusted experts icon

Trusted experts:

Our board-certified pediatric cardiovascular providers have years of training and experience in heart and blood vessel conditions affecting babies and kids. If your child needs surgery, they’ll get excellent care at Cleveland Clinic Children's. Meet our team.

caring approach icon

Caring approach:

You can worry a lot when you learn something isn’t right with your child’s heart. That’s why we take the time to answer your questions and listen to your concerns. We make sure you have all the information you need about what to expect from diagnosis and treatment — and beyond.

Innovation and Research Icon

Innovation and research:

We never stop searching for the best ways to treat complex heart conditions in children. Our pediatric cardiovascular team uses advanced imaging techniques and technologies, like 3D print models, to make sure treatments are personalized to your child’s needs.

Virtual Consultation icon

Virtual visits:

Not all appointments need to be in person. Our virtual visits are a great alternative for quick check-ins and follow-ups with your child’s provider. All you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or computer.

national recognition icon

National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic Children’s is a trusted healthcare leader. We’re recognized throughout the U.S. for our expertise and care.

Diagnosing Vascular Rings at Cleveland Clinic Children’s

Vascular rings start during fetal development, before birth. These extra blood vessels wrap around the windpipe (trachea), the food tube (esophagus) or both. They compress these tubes. This limits blood supply and affects breathing and swallowing. The most common aortic rings are:

  • Double aortic arch: The aorta divides into two arches before becoming a single blood vessel again. It can compress the esophagus, trachea or both.
  • Right aortic arch with aberrant subclavian artery: The subclavian artery arises abnormally from the aorta and can constrict the esophagus and/or trachea.

Your baby may show vascular ring symptoms soon after birth. Or they may develop signs as they grow. These can include wheezing, coughing, frequent respiratory infections or bluish skin (cyanosis). Your child may also have trouble swallowing, chronic acid reflux (GERD) and vomiting. They may also not gain weight like they should.

What to expect at the first visit

When you and your child come to your first appointment, we won’t jump right into testing and a physical exam. We’ll start by talking and getting to know each other. We’ll ask about:

  • What kind of symptoms your child has.
  • When they started.
  • How long they’ve had them.
  • How they’re affecting their life.
  • If you’ve talked to your child’s pediatrician about it.

During this visit, your child’s provider will do a physical exam and order more tests to find out what’s going on with their trachea, esophagus, chest, abdomen (belly) and heart.

Testing for vascular rings

Because vascular rings can cause many different symptoms, your child may have several tests to help their providers pinpoint a diagnosis. These may include:

Meet our vascular rings team

Cleveland Clinic Children’s team-based approach to care means your child will get a care team of different providers from different specialties. These experts are handpicked to meet your child’s unique needs and diagnosis. Your child may see:


At Cleveland Clinic Children's, we're here when you need us most. Find a location near you.

Treating Vascular Rings at Cleveland Clinic Children’s

We can’t prevent vascular rings from developing. But we can treat them. Your child’s treatment plan will depend on how the rings are affecting things like swallowing, breathing and your child’s overall health.

If vascular rings press on your child’s esophagus or trachea, they’ll likely need surgery. Depending on how bad the symptoms are (and if they have a double aortic arch), our surgeons may operate right away. If they don’t have symptoms, we may take a “watchful waiting” approach and keep a close eye on things as your child grows.

Surgery for vascular rings

Our surgeons do a thoracotomy to repair vascular rings. They’ll divide vascular rings to relieve pressure on your child’s esophagus or trachea. They may also need to take out the abnormal arteries and then put them back in, or remove irregular parts in the the aorta.

Lifelong care

Your child may have symptoms for a few months after surgery, but these usually clear up within a year. They’ll need to have follow-up care and testing well into adulthood. So as they grow into adolescence and young adulthood, we’ll help them transition comfortably to our adult providers.

Taking the Next Step

No one wants to hear their child has a congenital heart condition. Especially one that may need surgery. We understand that a vascular rings diagnosis can be overwhelming. That’s why we give you and your child compassionate support and the best care. We want them to get back to growing, thriving and having fun as quickly as possible.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic Children’s vascular rings experts is easy. We’ll help your child get care.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic Children’s vascular rings experts is easy. We’ll help your child get care.

Manage your Cleveland Clinic account. Find billing information and financial assistance, plus FAQs.

Billing & Insurance

Manage your Cleveland Clinic account. Find billing information and financial assistance, plus FAQs.

Securely access your personal health information at any time, day or night.


Securely access your personal health information at any time, day or night.

Health Library
Back to Top