A total of 6 pairs of arch arteries appeared during human embryonic development. At the 6th–8th week of the embryo, the arch arteries evolved into the basic structure of the systemic arteries. Abnormalities occurring during this period could result in a variety of aortic arch anomalies, including anomalies of size, continuity and combination of aortic arch [
The types of aortic arch anomalies are complex and changeable. The ultrasonic diagnosis is difficult and the misdiagnosis rate is high. Failure to detect these diseases in time is the main cause of morbidity and mortality in severe cases of infants [
]. At present, there is lack of researches on the methodology of ultrasonic screening and diagnosis of these diseases in children. This paper puts forward the views and methods of echocardiographic screening and diagnosis of these diseases after birth for the first time, which is summarized as follows:
Views and methods of echocardiographic screening and diagnosis of aortic arch anomalies
The views researched in this study include the three-vessel and tracheal view, aortic arch short axis view, left aortic arch long axis view and aortic arch long axis continuous scan views. We found that the screening sensitivity (73.6%) and diagnostic coincidence rate (27.1%) of short axis view of aortic arch were the lowest. No abnormalities were found in 37 (37/67) cases with COA which were well developed at the proximal transverse arch near the first branch. However, compared with the traditional left aortic arch axis view, the short axis of the aortic arch increases the display of the DAA. According to the branch of the first brachiocephalic artery, we can infer the position of aortic arch, and whether there is aberrant subclavian artery. On the short axis view, the normal aortic arch shows that the first branch points to the right anterior, and the proximal bifurcation can be seen (the right brachiocephalic trunk artery sends out the right common carotid artery and right subclavian artery). When the first branch points to the right anterior and there is no bifurcation (considered as right common carotid artery), we should take LAA with the aberrant right subclavian artery into consideration. When the first branch points to the left anterior and the proximal bifurcation is visible (the left brachiocephalic trunk sends out LCCA and LSCA), it should be considered as RAA with mirror branch. When the first branch points to the left anterior and there is no bifurcation (considered as LCCA), we should take RAA with the aberrant left subclavian artery as consideration. When the short axis of the aortic arch shows a “dumbbell sign”, it indicates DAA. The screening sensitivity and diagnostic coincidence rate of left aortic arch long axis were 87.1 and 66.4% respectively, and the shape, inner diameter and continuity of LAA could be observed on this view. However, due to the limitation of angle, it is impossible to observe RAA or DAA completely. Especially when neglecting the observation of the brachiocephalic branches of aortic arch, it is inclined to misdiagnose the case of DAA. Seventeen cases of (17/20) DAA were missed by using this view alone, and the other 3 cases (3/20) were abnormal on this view because of dysplasia of LAA. We are used to concerning the observation of one side arch or dominant arch and neglecting the detection of contralateral arch and brachiocephalic artery branches. It is also one of the common causes of missed diagnosis of aortic arch anomalies, so we should pay attention in our work. The aortic arch long axis continuous scan views are modified views based on the traditional left aortic arch long axis view. It can make up for the display of RAA and DAA and improve the reveal of the aberrant subclavian artery. The screening sensitivity and diagnostic coincidence rate of aortic arch anomalies were increased to 99.3 and 95.0% respectively. These views are a series of views of aortic arch long axis sagittal and coronary dynamic scanning, which have a large amount of information, and The screening sensitivity and diagnostic coincidence rate can be significantly improved. But it demands higher requirements for the operation and observation ability of doctors. There are still some shortcomings of these views: for example, they can not directly show the spatial relationship between the aortic arch and the esophagus and trachea, so RAA and DAA could only be speculatively diagnosed. DAA with LSCA atresia is easy to be confused with mirror right arch, and all these cases need to be combined with three vessels-trachea view to complete the diagnosis.
The three-vessel and tracheal view is one of the internationally recognized important views in the echocardiographic screening of fetal congenital heart diseases [
]. In this study, this view was applied to the screening and diagnosis of aortic arch anomalies in infants for the first time. The chest wall of the infant is thin. The thymus in this period has not degenerated and its volume is large, which helps to reduce the interference of air in lung and easily obtain a satisfactory three-vessel and tracheal view. During this study, except for a few cases of severe pneumonia, pneumothorax and severe thoracic deformity, the vast majority of children successfully obtained this view. The results of this study showed the screening sensitivity and diagnostic coincidence rate of this view were 99.3 and 85.7% respectively, and it had distinct advantage in the diagnosis of congenital vascular ring. In 2 cases of suspected DAA with LSCA distal atresia, although the atresia segment could not be directly displayed on ultrasound, the diagnosis of this disease was suggested according to the abnormal structural features in ultrasound (Fig.
) consistent with those reported in the literature [
]. CTA and bronchoscopy were performed in the 2 cases, which confirmed the existence of tracheal compression stenosis and further supported the ultrasonic diagnosis. One case was also proved by operation. This view could easily diagnose RAA. However, because aberrant subclavian artery was located in the far sound field and had a large angle with the sound beam, it was easy to be affected by air, which could cause missed diagnosis easily. In only 2 cases with the C-shaped vascular ring of this study, 1(1/2) was missed diagnosis. Annotation: The coronal view of the descending part of aorta arch long axis with blood flow guidance can improve the display of the aberrant subclavian artery. For the patients with difficulty in directly displaying the aberrant subclavian artery, the identification of the first branch on the short axis of the aorta arch view could play an important role in speculation and diagnosis. In this group of patients with interruption, coarctation and dysplasia of aortic arch, the three-vessel and tracheal view had characteristic images. The IAA showed an”0 l” shape. Coarctation and dysplasia of aortic arch showed an asymmetric “V” sign. This view could provide important diagnostic clues of aortic arch anomalies, combining with the long axis view of aortic arch in suprasternal fossa to make an accurate diagnosis. Because of the ideal angle of this view, it can help the long-axis view of the aortic arch to distinguish the interruption or severe COA. Diagnostic skills: we first obtain the three-vessel view which can define the position of the root of the aorta and the descending aorta, then tilt the probe to the side of the head to get the three-vessel and tracheal view. During the process, the continuity of the aortic arch and the descending aorta is observed to determine whether there is any interruption or coarctation. In this study, a number of cases with controversy in the long axis of the aortic arch view were differentiated by this method, and a correct modified diagnosis was obtained. However, in the case of mild COA with a reasonable development of aortic arch, the imbalance of the aortic and pulmonary arteries in this view is inconspicuous and false negatives are prone to occur. The coarctation of the descending aorta in the lower position also can not be directly showed on this view. Therefore, we should combine this view with other views for diagnosis. This study shows that the sensitivity of screening for aortic arch abnormalities combined with four views can be increased to 100%, and the diagnostic coincidence rate can be increased to 97.9%.
Analysis of missed and incorrectly diagnosed cases
IAA and severe COA are sometimes difficult to distinguish. In this group, 2 cases of IAA (isthmus atresia) were incorrectly diagnosed as COA and 1 case of severe COA was incorrectly diagnosed as IAA. As to these 2 cases of aortic isthmic atresia, the wall of the aortic isthmus was continuous with the descending aorta, but the lumen was atresia. The long axis of the aortic arch showed that the wall was continuous, and the tissue of the atresia segment was extremely low in echo, which was hollow lumen-like echo in two-dimensional view. The atresia segment was very short, and the false image of aortic coarctation was caused by color spillover. The three-vessel and tracheal view showed that the aortic arch was continuous with the wall of the descending aorta. The tissue of the atresia segment was very low in echo, and the two-dimensional view showed hollow lumen-like echo, presenting an asymmetric “V” sign in three-vessel and tracheal view. One case was misdiagnosed due to the identification of unopened blood flow pattern, and the other was incorrectly diagnosed by mistaking the collateral vessels for a continuous aortic arch. Encountering similar cases, especially the suspicious cases of short segment coarctation without obvious blood flow acceleration found on the long axis of the aortic arch, we can make a diagnosis by simultaneous observation on multiple views, multiple angles, two-dimension and color [
]. As the case of severe COA incorrectly diagnosed as IAA, the reason for missing diagnosis was that the coarctation segment of the aorta was lower, tortuous and slender, leading uneasily to be observed on aortic arch long axis view. Its flow was overlapped with the crassi ductus arteriosus which covered it. Due to the small diameter, tortuosity, low position of the coarctation segment and dysplasia of the aortic arch, the continuity between the aortic arch and the descending aorta was not showed on the three-vessel and tracheal view, presenting a “ol” sign, and resulted in missing diagnosis. Some IAA (atresia) were considered to be the anomaly of the most serious aortic coarctation [
]. The author ever found a case of severe coarctation of isthmus in neonatal period and developed aortic atresia 2 days later. When it is difficult to diagnose aortic arch anomalies by ultrasound or to determine the compression of vascular ring on trachea and esophagus, we can make a definite diagnosis by CTA, radiography, bronchoscopy and so on [
In this study we selected positive infant cases with aortic arch anomalies diagnosed by ultrasound and determined by CTA or/and surgery. The positive cases that could not be detected by ultrasound, the cases of loss of follow-up and the older cases with poor images were not included in this study. Incorrect diagnosis may occur in cases of mild coarctation of the distal aorta with well developed proximal aorta. The number of cases in this study was small and didn’t include all types of aortic arch anomalies. Because infant cases with aberrant subclavian artery rarely had clinical symptoms, so it was difficult to be confirmed by follow-up. In practical work, some children with congenital heart disease like this are prone to complications such as heart failure, severe pneumonia, even pneumothorax and thoracic deformities [
], which affect the clarity of the images. Prospective research needs to be carried out in the future, and the sample size should be expanded for further analysis.