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
In esophageal atresia, the esophagus narrows or comes to a blind end. It does not connect with the stomach as it normally should. A tracheoesophageal fistula is an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea (which leads to the lungs).
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 Aspiration Pneumonia and Chemical Pneumonitis Aspiration pneumonia is lung infection caused by inhaling mouth secretions, stomach contents, or both. Chemical pneumonitis is lung irritation caused by inhalation of substances irritating or... read more )
A blue tint to the baby's skin from low blood oxygen levels
How can doctors tell if my baby has esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula?
Doctors may suspect these problems from a routine ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more 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.