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Esophageal Atresia and Tracheoesophageal Fistula

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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What are esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula?

The esophagus is the tube that carries food and liquids from your mouth to your stomach. Atresia is a birth defect in which an opening or passage is narrow or blocked. Esophageal atresia is a birth defect in which your baby is born with a narrow or closed-up esophagus, so food can’t get to the stomach.

The trachea is your windpipe. A fistula is a hole connecting 2 organs.Tracheoesophageal fistula is an opening between the esophagus and windpipe (trachea), so when the baby swallows, food goes into the baby's windpipe and lungs

Babies usually have both problems.

  • Doctors don’t know what causes esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula, but these problems often happen along with other birth defects

  • Your baby coughs or chokes when trying to eat

  • Doctors do surgery to fix the defects

Atresia and Fistula: Defects in the Esophagus

Atresia and Fistula: Defects in the Esophagus

What are the symptoms of esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula?

For esophageal atresia, symptoms include:

  • Coughing, choking, and drooling when your baby feeds

Tracheoesophageal fistula is dangerous because swallowed food and saliva travel through the hole to your baby’s windpipe and lungs and cause:

  • Coughing, choking, and trouble breathing

  • Sometimes, a type of pneumonia (aspiration pneumonia)

  • A blue tint to the baby's skin from low blood oxygen levels

How can doctors tell if my child has esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula?

Doctors may suspect these problems from a routine ultrasound during pregnancy. After birth they'll do tests such as:

  • Pass a tube down your baby’s esophagus to see if it’s blocked off from the stomach

  • X-rays of the neck and chest

How do doctors treat esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula?

Doctors do surgery to treat these problems. For esophageal atresia, they’ll create a connection between your baby’s esophagus and stomach. For tracheoesophageal fistula, they’ll close the connection between the esophagus and windpipe.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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