Circumflex aorta: An uncharted territory

Asian Cardiovasc Thorac Ann. 2022 Feb;30(2):217-225. doi: 10.1177/02184923211015092. Epub 2021 May 6.


Background: Vascular rings are aortic arch anomalies with a spectrum of manifestations ranging from asymptomatic lesions detected incidentally to an acute presentation secondary to tracheo-esophageal compression. Circumflex retro-esophageal aortic arch is an extreme form of true vascular ring. It remains an uncharted territory to many surgeons.

Methods: A comprehensive search of peer reviewed journals was completed based on the key words, "Circumflex aorta," "Circumflex retro-esophageal aorta" and "circumflex arch" using Google scholar, Scholars Portal Journals and PubMed. The reference section for each article found was searched to obtain additional articles. Literature on the circumflex aorta was reviewed starting from the embryogenesis to the latest management strategies.

Results: Right circumflex aorta is more prevalent compared to left circumflex aorta. It can occur in isolation or in association with other intracardiac lesions. Mainly presents in children, however reported in adults too. The presentation may vary from asymptomatic lesion to acute respiratory distress secondary to airway compression. Computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are important tools in delineating the vascular anatomy. Aortic uncrossing is the definitive procedure. However, the role of concomitant tracheobronchopexy is emerging. Native tissue-to-tissue anastomosis is commonly preferred, but cases of extra-anatomic grafts are reported.

Conclusion: Circumflex aorta is amenable to complete repair. Preoperative delineation of anatomy is important for successful surgical outcome. Division of the retro-esophageal segment is crucial in relieving the compressive symptoms. In addition, tracheobronchopexy is helpful in addressing residual tracheomalacia but this accounts for a high-risk surgery.

Keywords: Vascular rings; aortic uncrossing; circumflex aorta; tracheobronchopexy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aorta
  • Aorta, Thoracic / abnormalities
  • Aorta, Thoracic / diagnostic imaging
  • Aorta, Thoracic / surgery
  • Child
  • Heart Defects, Congenital*
  • Humans
  • Trachea / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Ring*