What is it?

Esophageal atresia is a congenital (from birth) defect. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth and the stomach. In esophageal atresia, the esophagus doesn't connect to the stomach but instead ends as a blind pouch. Esophageal atresia often is accompanied by tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF), which is an abnormal opening between the trachea (windpipe) and the esophagus. Sometimes other problems are present in the heart, spine, anus, and kidneys.

What are the symptoms?

Usually esophageal atresia is diagnosed just after birth while your newborn is still in the hospital. When babies with this condition are fed, they swallow normally but begin to cough and choke as the fluid is blocked by the incomplete esophagus. The fluid typically comes up through the nose and mouth. The baby may turn blue or stop breathing if fluid is aspirated (sucked into the lungs.) These babies usually also drool, cough, and sneeze excessively.

How is it treated?

Esophageal atresia, and tracheoesophageal fistula are treated with surgery that can be performed at Children's shortly after birth. In severe cases, where your child's esophagus is not long enough to allow its two ends to be reconnected, additional procedures are necessary. A gastrostomy may be performed, which allows your child to be fed through a tube into the stomach. A cervical esophagostomy may be necessary to allow saliva to drain out of a hole in the neck. Months or years later, after your child grows, a surgery will reconnect the two sections of the esophagus and remove the gastrostomy and esophagostomy. Often, children with esophageal atresia will have trouble with swallowing or heart burn later in life.

About surgery for esophageal atresia at Children's

The surgeries for esophageal atresia are commonly performed at Children's and often can be performed within days of birth. Pediatric general surgery teams at Children's provide next-generation care for esophageal atresia to children from throughout the Upper Midwest and consistently perform some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Surgery for esophageal atresia is performed at Children's - Minneapolis and Children's - St. Paul.

Contact us

  • If you are looking for a Children's specialist in gastrointestinal surgery, please visit Find a Doctor.
  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).