Collateral vessels are small blood vessels that connect the aorta (the major vessel carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body) and the main pulmonary artery (carrying oxygen-depleted blood from heart to lungs). Everyone has collateral vessels, but they're normally small and not used by the circulatory system. However, if the collateral vessels become enlarged, blood can flow into the wrong artery and put a strain on the heart. This problem can affect both children and adults, and can be present at birth or develop later. In many cases, the recommended treatment is to close the vessels.
Doctors may recommend collateral vessel closure for other conditions in which these vessels play a role, including myocardial ischemia, which is insufficient blood supply to the heart muscle; congestive heart failure, in which the heart becomes too weak to function well; endocarditis, an infection of the heart's lining or valves; strokes, in which blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted; and aneurysms, which are bulges in a weakened blood vessel wall. Cardiologists also may close collateral vessels to treat various types of fistulas – or abnormal passageways – in the circulatory system.
Our pediatric specialists close collateral vessels using a safe nonsurgical technique called cardiac catheterization, and specially designed metal coils and plugs. The procedure takes about two and a half hours. Patients are sedated, which means your child won't be under general anesthesia (completely asleep) but will be unaware of what's happening and will not feel any discomfort. In most cases, patients go home the same day as the procedure.
During cardiac catheterization, a doctor inserts thin, flexible tubes called catheters into a vein in the leg or neck and threads them to the heart. Once in place, the catheters are used to convey and place small metal coils or plugs in the collateral vessels. The coil causes a blood clot to form and close off the vessel. Over time, tissue grows around the metal device, forming a permanent seal.