A vascular ring is a rare congenital cardiovascular anomaly, which encircles and compresses the trachea or esophagus, or both. In this review we discuss the pathophysiology, theoretical embryopathogenesis, diagnostic modalities, and surgical treatment of the different types of vascular ring. Knowledge of the normal embryonic development of the aortic arch and related structures is important for understanding and classifying the various forms of vascular ring. The development of a vascular ring begins with the embryonic aortic arch system. The persistence, involution, or regression of the arches determines the multiple variations of vascular ring. With the development of new technologies, multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) has become a good diagnostic modality for pre- and postoperative evaluation. MDCT provides an excellent image of aortic arch abnormalities and the related anatomy, as well as the tracheal pathology. For patients with symptoms, surgical division of the vascular ring usually achieves excellent outcomes with marked resolution of symptoms and a low risk of morbidity and mortality. Symptomatic vascular rings require early surgical intervention to prevent prolonged vascular compression of the airway and serious complications.