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Aortic arch syndrome

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.

Heartbeat
Heartbeat

Alternative Names

Subclavian artery occlusive syndrome; Carotid artery occlusion syndrome; Subclavian steal syndrome; Vertebral-basilar artery occlusive syndrome; Takayasu disease; Pulseless disease

Causes

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

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

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

An inflammatory disease called Takayasu syndrome may result in narrowing (stenosis) of the vessels of the aortic arch in women and girls. This disease is seen more often in people of Asian descent.

Vascular ring

Symptoms

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

  • Blood pressure changes
  • Breathing problems
  • Dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, and other brain and nervous system (neurological) changes
  • Numbness of an arm
  • Reduced pulse
  • Transient ischemic attacks

Treatment

Surgery is most often needed to treat the underlying cause of aortic arch syndrome.

References

Braverman AC, Thompson RW, Sanchez LA. Diseases of the aorta. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 60.

Isselbacher EM. Diseases of the aorta. In: Goldman L,Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 78.

Updated: 5/20/2014

Larry A. Weinrauch MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cardiovascular Disease and Clinical Outcomes Research, Watertown, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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