Esophageal Atresia

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Esophageal atresia is a condition in which the esophagus is notfully developed. It is a congenital condition, which means that it is presentat birth.

What is going on in the body?

Esophageal atresia is a conditionin which the upper esophagus is closed off, forming a pouch at the end of it.This prevents fluid from entering into the stomach. The fluid builds up in the pouch and backs up into the mouth.

This condition is often associated with a tracheoesophageal fistula, anabnormality in which the lower esophagus connects to the trachea. The tracheais the tube that allows air to flow between the lungs and mouth.

A baby with esophageal atresia often has other medical problems, such as heart, kidney, or gastrointestinal conditions.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Esophageal atresia occurs when the esophagus and trachea fail to separate normally while the embryo is in the uterus. The actual cause of this condition is not known. It is more common in babies with chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

Esophageal atresia may be apparent soon after a baby is born. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • excess amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac
  • immediate feeding problems
  • coughing, gagging, and choking during feedings
  • thick and excessive respiratory secretions
  • cyanosis, which is a bluishcoloration of the skin and mucous membranes
  • noisy breathing, such as wheezing
  • regurgitation
  • excessive drooling
  • trouble breathing, or shortness ofbreath
  • swollen abdomen
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the disease diagnosed?

    To diagnose esophagealatresia, a healthcare provider will start with a complete medical history andphysical exam. The provider may then order tests, such as:

  • blood tests
  • chest x-rays and otherx-rays
  • a special chest x-ray that is done after a nasogastric tube is put throughthe nose into the esophagus to the point where the esophagus stops
  • cinefluorography, which is a scan of the inside of the
  • Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the disease?

    At this time there is no way to prevent esophageal atresia.

    What are the long-term effects of the disease?

    If diagnosed andtreated early, esophageal may cause few long-term effects. These may includepneumonia from aspirating andchokingon stomach secretions. Gastroesophagealreflux disease (GERD), a condition in which food goes up the esophagusfrom the stomach, can also occur.

    What are the risks to others?

    Esophageal atresia poses no risk to others.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the disease?

    A baby born with esophagealatresianeeds surgery right away. The type and extent of surgery will depend on whattype of esophageal atresia is present and what other congenital defects mayexist. Surgery focuses on attaching the two ends of the esophagus together and repairing any tracheoesophageal fistula that may be present.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Side effects depend on the treatments used. For example, antibiotics may cause allergic reactions and stomach upset. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reactions to anesthesia. Surgical repair of esophageal atresia can increase the infant’s risk of hiatal hernia and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    Catheters and special suction tubes will usually remain in place after surgery while the babyrecovers from surgery and any secondary infection. Special x-rays or scans,such as an endoscopy, may be done to see if treatment is working. Further treatment will depend on any other conditions that exist. Encouraging bonding between parents and child isimportant in helping the child and family heal.

    How is the disease monitored?

    Monitoring of esophagealatresia will depend on the extent of symptoms and surgery done. The healthcareprovider should be notified of any new or worsening symptoms.

    Article type: xmedgeneral

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