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Aortic arch syndrome

Definition

Aortic arch syndrome refers to a group of signs and symptoms associated with structural problems in the arteries that branch off the aortic arch. The aortic arch is the top part of the main artery carrying blood away from the heart.

Alternative Names

Subclavian artery occlusive syndrome; Carotid artery occlusion syndrome; Subclavian steal syndrome; Vertebral-basilar artery occlusive syndrome

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Aortic arch syndrome problems are most often associated with trauma, blood clots, or malformations that develop before birth. The arteries' defects result in abnormal blood flow to the head, neck, or arms.

In children, there are multiple types of aortic arch syndromes, including:

  • Congenital absence of a branch of the aorta
  • Isolation of the subclavian arteries
  • Vascular rings

Symptoms

Symptoms vary according to the affected artery, but may include:

  • Neurological changes such as:
    • Dizziness
    • Blurred vision
    • Weakness
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Breathing problems
  • Numbness of an arm
  • Reduced pulse
  • Transient ischemic attacks

Treatment

Surgery is usually required to treat the underlying cause of aortic arch syndrome.

References

Webb GD, Smallhorn JF, Therrien J, et al. Diseases of the heart, pericardium, and pulmonary vasculature bed. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2007:chap 61.
Review Date: 
6/1/2010
Reviewed By: 
Issam Mikati, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Director, Northwestern Clinic Echocardiography Lab, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.