Anomalous course of the carotid arteries in the retrooesophageal space: An unusual cause of chest pain


The differential diagnosis of chest pain, one of the most frequent symptoms referred in the emergency department, includes cardiac and noncardiac causes and represents a difficult challenge for clinicians. Noncardiac chest pain can be defined as the recurrence of chest pain episodes indistinguishable from coronary events after the exclusion of a cardiac cause. It may be of musculoskeletal, pulmonary, gastroenterological, psychosomatic or neurological aetiology, oesophageal disorders representing the most common detectable cause. In this report we describe a rare case of chest pain which appeared after dinner, due to an oesophageal spasm caused by the anomalous course of the carotid arteries. The case is relevant because it describes a very uncommon variant of the physiological course of the carotid arteries, and because it is unusual that a retro thoracic vascular abnormality can be related to the appearance of chest pain without dysphagia. Chest pain which appears after dinner in our case is probably due to the unusual anatomic connection between oesophagus and carotid arteries that probably begins to make stronger when the patient undertakes the supine position: for that reason nocturnal chest pain promptly relieves after the assumption of orthostatic or semi orthostatic decubitus. In conclusion, in a patient who refers the sudden appearance of nocturnal chest pain certainly unrelated to coronary artery disease, the physicians should consider the involvement of oesophageal system, maybe determined by vascular course abnormalities.

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Bosso, G. , Valvano, A. , Apuzzi, V. , Riccone, F. and Oliviero, U. (2012) Anomalous course of the carotid arteries in the retrooesophageal space: An unusual cause of chest pain. World Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases, 2, 326-329. doi: 10.4236/wjcd.2012.24052.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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