Circumflex aorta

Circumflex aorta is a rare aortic arch anomaly caused by retroesophageal crossing of the aorta to the contralateral side. A vascular ring is formed when a ductus or ligamentum arteriosum contralateral to the aortic arch connects the descending aorta to the pulmonary artery.

Like other vascular rings, this anomaly can cause 1-4:

  • wheezing or stridor
  • dyspnea
  • dysphagia
  • frequent respiratory tract infections 

Right circumflex aorta develops when there is regression of the left fourth branchial arch and persistence of the left ductus arteriosus and left dorsal aorta. Left circumflex aorta develops from regression of the right fourth branchial arch with persistence of the right ductus arteriosus and right dorsal aorta 2,3

A right circumflex aorta is more common than a left circumflex aorta. 

Frontal chest radiograph may show nonspecific mediastinal widening. On lateral view, the retroesophageal aorta can be seen as a mass-like density displacing the trachea anteriorly.

Oesophagram can demonstrate an impression on the esophagus at the side of the aortic arch and posteriorly where the aorta crosses the midline.  

CT and MRI can demonstrate the aorta crossing the midline posteriorly to descend to the contralateral side. 

Surgery is the definitive treatment for this anomaly. Division of the ductus or ligamentum arteriosum is usually not enough to relieve the compression produced by the retroesophageal aorta. Patients may need to undergo aortic uncrossing, wherein the retroesophageal aorta is transected, mobilized and anastomosed to the ascending aorta anterior to the airway 4

Possible considerations include:

Article information

rID: 64304
System: Chest, Vascular
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

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Cases and figures

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