Computed tomography in the evaluation of vascular rings and slings

Insights Imaging. 2014 Aug;5(4):507-21. doi: 10.1007/s13244-014-0343-3. Epub 2014 Jul 10.


Vascular rings are congenital abnormalities of the aortic arch-derived vascular and ligamentous structures, which encircle the trachea and oesophagus to varying degrees, resulting in respiratory or feeding difficulties in children. A sling is an abnormality of the pulmonary arterial system resulting in airway compression. Although several imaging examinations are available for the evaluation of these anomalies, computed tomography (CT) has become the preferred test because of rapid acquisitions, making it feasible to perform the study without sedation or general anaesthesia. Furthermore, CT provides excellent spatial and temporal resolution, a wide field of view, multiplanar reconstruction capabilities and simultaneous evaluation of the airway. In this review, the current role and technique of CT in the evaluation of vascular rings are discussed. A brief discussion of the embryology of the aorta and branch vessels is followed by discussion and illustration of common and some uncommon vascular rings along with critical information required by surgeons. Teaching Points • Computed tomography is valuable in the evaluation of vascular rings.• Due to variable clinical and imaging presentations, diagnosis of vascular rings is often challenging.• Laterality of the arch is critical in surgical management.