Dysphagia lusoria: problem or incidentaloma?

Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Dec;27(6):448-452. doi: 10.1097/MOO.0000000000000583.


Purpose of review: To address the incidental versus pathogenic nature of dysphagia lusoria and to provide a review of the cause, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of this condition with respect to recent literature.

Recent findings: Case reports comprise the majority of recent literature concerning dysphagia lusoria. Many patients with an aberrant right subclavian artery (ARSA) have additional coexisting vascular anomalies. While most individuals present around age 50, some present as children and neonates. Of note, this population may present with dysphagia as opposed to respiratory findings alone, as previously described. In the diagnostic workup, most patients receive a battery of radiologic tests, which may not be necessary. Significantly, dietary modifications and medical management alone may resolve symptoms. Nonetheless, a wide range of operative techniques are available for the treatment of dysphagia lusoria.

Summary: Clinicians should have a higher suspicion for dysphagia lusoria in patients with known vascular, heart, or chromosomal anomalies. Diagnosis should begin with a barium esophagram followed by a computed tomography angiogram or magnetic resonance angiogram. Avoid unnecessary studies. In many cases, an ARSA may be an incidental finding with comorbid gastroesophageal reflux disease or another medical condition responsible for the symptoms. Medical versus surgical management should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Abnormalities / complications*
  • Cardiovascular Abnormalities / diagnosis*
  • Deglutition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology*
  • Deglutition Disorders / therapy
  • Humans
  • Subclavian Artery / abnormalities*

Supplementary concepts

  • Aberrant subclavian artery