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.
For esophageal atresia, symptoms include:
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
Doctors may suspect these problems from a routine ultrasound during pregnancy. After birth they'll do tests such as: