Aberrant coronary arteries: a reliable echocardiographic screening method

J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2003 Jul;16(7):756-63. doi: 10.1016/S0894-7317(03)00321-3.


Background: Aberrant origin (ABO) of a coronary artery (CA) from the contralateral aortic sinus with a subsequent interarterial course is a life-threatening condition. It carries a 28% to 55% risk for a sudden coronary event or death, but there are no reliable screening methods.

Objective: We sought to determine whether imaging a cross section of a coronary segment in the anterior aortic wall on the long-axis view may be used as an echocardiographic screening sign for ABO CA.

Methods: The echocardiograms of all patients with ABO CA were evaluated for the screening sign and compared with those of age-matched control patients.

Results: Between January 1989 and October 2002, we identified 8 patients with ABO CA (median age: 15 years). Of these patients, 4 were symptomatic and 4 were discovered incidentally. The electrocardiogram produced normal findings in 5 of 8 patients, maximal stress test produced normal findings in 5 of 6 patients, and thallium perfusion test produced negative results in 2 of 3 patients. There were 4 patients with ABO in the main left CA, 3 with ABO in the right CA, and 1 with ABO in the circumflex CA branch. The screening sign was readily visible in 7 of the 8 patients (88%), and all 7 of these patients had ABO in a main CA. Only in the ABO in the circumflex CA branch was the screening sign not detected. The 1743 control patients (median age: 14 years) showed normal anterior aortic wall, which was void of any CA segment. In 5 control patients (0.3%, P <.001) the normal right CA was visible on the long-axis view, but was not confused for a false-positive screening sign.

Conclusion: We concluded that the proposed screening sign for ABO CA is reliable and easily recognizable, and should prompt a comprehensive assessment of the CA.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Coronary Vessel Anomalies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Echocardiography, Doppler / methods*
  • Echocardiography, Doppler, Color / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies