During early development, the esophagus and windpipe trachea begin as a single tube that normally divides into the two adjacent passages between four and eight weeks after conception. In esophageal atresia EA , the upper esophagus does not connect atresia to the lower esophagus and stomach. Almost 90 percent of babies born with esophageal atresia also have a tracheoesophageal fistula TEF , in which the esophagus and the trachea are abnormally connected, allowing fluids from the esophagus to get into the airways and interfere with breathing. A small number of infants have only one of these abnormalities. In more than 80 percent of cases, the lower section of the malformed esophagus is connected to the trachea EA with a distal TEF.
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Click here to view a larger image. Esophageal atresia is a birth defect of the swallowing tube esophagus that connects the mouth to the stomach. In a baby with esophageal atresia, the esophagus has two separate sections—the upper and lower esophagus—that do not connect. A baby with this birth defect is unable to pass food from the mouth to the stomach, and sometimes difficulty breathing. Esophageal atresia often occurs with tracheoesophageal fistula, a birth defect in which part of the esophagus is connected to the trachea, or windpipe.
Researchers estimate that about 1 in every 4, babies is born with esophageal atresia in the United States. Like many families of children with a birth defect, CDC wants to find out what causes them. Understanding the factors that can increase the chance of having a baby with a birth defect will help us learn more about the causes. The causes of esophageal atresia in most babies are unknown. Nearly half of all babies born with esophageal atresia have one or more additional birth defects, such as other problems with the digestive system intestines and anus , heart, kidneys, or the ribs or spinal column.
Recently, CDC reported on important findings about some factors that increase the risk of having a baby with esophageal atresia:. CDC continues to study birth defects, such as esophageal atresia, and how to prevent them. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor about ways to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.
Esophageal atresia is rarely diagnosed during pregnancy. An x-ray can confirm that the tube stops in the upper esophagus. Once a diagnosis has been made, surgery is needed to reconnect the two ends of the esophagus so that the baby can breathe and feed properly. The images are in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions. As a matter of courtesy we request that the content provider Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities be credited and notified in any public or private usage of this image.
Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options Skip directly to A-Z link. Birth Defects. Section Navigation. Facts about Esophageal Atresia. Minus Related Pages. Esophageal Atresia Type C. Normal Esophagus. Esophageal Atresia. Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website. Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.
Esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula
Esophageal atresia is a digestive disorder in which the esophagus does not develop properly. The esophagus is the tube that normally carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal atresia EA is a congenital defect. This means it occurs before birth.
Esophageal atresia is incomplete formation of the esophagus, frequently associated with tracheoesophageal fistula. Diagnosis is suspected by failure to pass a nasogastric or orogastric tube. Treatment is surgical repair. See also Overview of Congenital Gastrointestinal Anomalies. Esophageal atresia is the most common gastrointestinal GI atresia. The estimated incidence is 1 in live births.