Definition of Esophageal atresia
Esophageal atresia is a disorder of the digestive system in which the esophagus does not develop properly. The esophagus is the tube that normally carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Esophageal atresia is a congenital defect, which means it occurs before birth. There are several types. In most cases, the upper esophagus ends and does not connect with the lower esophagus and stomach. The top end of the lower esophagus connects to the windpipe. This connection is called a tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF). Some babies with TEF will also have other problems, such as heart or other digestive tract disorders.
Signs and tests
Before birth, an ultrasound performed on the pregnant mother may show too much amniotic fluid, which can be a sign of esophageal atresia or other blockage of the digestive tract.
Esophageal atresia is considered a surgical emergency. Surgery to repair the esophagus should be done quickly after the baby is stabilized so that the lungs are not damaged and the baby can be fed.
An early diagnosis gives a better chance of a good outcome.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/14/2009