Double Aortic Arch

April 6, 2023
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
feature image

Congenital heart conditions also known as congenital heart defects can be an immediately life-changing diagnosis for any family. When managing a condition such as double aortic arch, there can be many questions and concerns regarding treatment options, meeting care needs, and understanding the long-term prognosis.

This practical guide provides helpful information for any family living with a double aortic arch diagnosis. As an informed caregiver, you can work closely with doctors and other providers to ensure the best possible outcome for any child with this condition.

What is a Double Aortic Arch?

A double aortic arch is a congenital heart defect involving the improper formation of the aorta, the primary artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Usually, the aorta is supposed to leave the heart and move away in a single arch. In children born with this condition, excess tissue that should disappear during fetal development or other blood vessels can cause the formation of a second arch.

Double aortic arch is part of a rare group of congenital heart defects called vascular rings. This is when extra blood vessels, such as the aorta, form a ring that can wrap around the windpipe and/or the esophagus, causing issues with breathing or digestion.

There are three main types of double aortic arch:

  • Balanced arch, with left and right being the same size
  • Dominant right arch and a smaller left arch, the most common form
  • Dominant left arch and smaller right arch

Double Aortic Arch Causes

Congenital heart defects develop in the womb before birth. Double aortic arch often occurs due to chromosomal anomalies. It can also happen in conjunction with other types of congenital heart defects, including tetralogy of fallot or truncus arteriosus.

Double Aortic Arch Risk Factors

Double aortic arch seems to occur equally in boys and girls. In many cases, the causes and risk factors are not fully understood.

Double Aortic Arch Symptoms

The symptoms of double aortic arch usually depend on the severity of the condition and how much compression of the esophagus and trachea occurs. In the mildest cases, a double aortic arch may not be detected until later in life. More severe cases may be noticeable in infancy or right after birth.

Symptoms of a breathing problem caused by a vascular ring compressing the trachea include:

  • Wheezing
  • Noisy breathing
  • A stridor, which is a high-pitched sound that can be heard during breathing
  • Recurring pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses

Digestive issues caused by a compressed esophagus include:

  • Vomiting
  • Challenges and difficulties with swallowing
  • Higher risk of choking

Double Aortic Arch Complications

These and other symptoms often lead to medical attention and eventual diagnosis of double aortic arch. Although rare, complications can include respiratory infections, failure to thrive, and erosion of the esophageal lining and tracheal linings.

Diagnosing Double Aortic Arch

Like other congenital heart defects, double aortic arch can be detected early as a result of a prenatal ultrasound. Doctors often take the following steps to diagnose the condition as the potential source of the above symptoms. Diagnostic measures and tests include:

  • Cross-sectional CT scan or MRI
  • Echocardiography
  • Chest X-ray

Double Aortic Arch Treatment Options

Initial treatment may consist of monitoring the condition. In milder cases that do not cause significant symptoms or complications, treatment such as surgery may not be needed.

In more severe cases, a surgeon can tie off and separate the smaller aortic branch to relieve pressure on the esophagus and windpipe. The surgeon can then stitch the aortic openings. This usually leads to almost immediate relief and improvement of symptoms after recovery.

Caring for a Child with a Double Aortic Arch

Children with a double aortic arch can typically expect to have a relatively normal level of activity but may have some care needs. Those who do not undergo surgery may still need regular appointments to monitor their condition. Children recovering from repair surgery will also have continuing needs, including rehabilitation sessions, appointments, and diagnostic tests to ensure the heart is functioning properly.

Changes to activities and medications may also be recommended for infants, children, and young adults living with double aortic arch. Many families benefit from the help of pediatric home health services. For children with specialized care needs related to double aortic arch, a caring pediatric RN or LPN can ensure they receive the necessary support.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offers one-on-one care in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.