Esophageal Atresia



What is esophageal atresia?

Esophageal atresia (EA) is a condition where the esophagus is obstructed during the development of a pregnancy. Instead of forming a tube between the mouth and the stomach, the esophagus grows in two separate segments that do not connect. It usually happens in the fourth week of pregnancy.

There are 5 types of esophageal atresia and it can happen with an esophageal fistula.

  • Type A – Esophageal atresia without fistula (10 percent)
  • Type B – Esophageal atresia with a fistula to the proximal esophageal segment (<1 percent)
  • Type C – Esophageal atresia with a fistula to the distal esophageal segment (85 percent)
  • Type D – Esophageal atresia with fistula to both the proximal and distal esophageal segments (<1 percent)
  • Type E – Fistula with no esophageal atresia (4 percent)

This condition also comes with other birth abnormalities, such as cardiac malformations, vertebral defects, anal atresia, and renal defects.

How common is esophageal atresia?

The various forms of EA constitute one of the most common gastrointestinal anomalies, occurring in 1 in 3,500 live births. This condition usually affect more boys than girls (ratio 2:1).


What are the symptoms of esophageal atresia?

In children, EA can have symptoms related to feeding and breathing of the child, include:

  • Excessive drooling of saliva or mucus in the nose and mouth;
  • Coughing;
  • Gagging;
  • Difficulties feeding;
  • Having no audible cry;
  • Difficulties breathing after crying;
  • Frequent acid reflux;
  • Bluish coloration to the skin (cyanosis) with attempted feeding.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

This condition develops during pregnancy. Thus, regular pregnancy checkups/prenatal care should be carried out to screen anomalies.

If your infant has any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes esophageal atresia?

Esophageal atresia is caused by a defect before childbirth (congenital defect). While there is no clear cause for this condition, genetic might play a part.

The anomalies in genetic can cause the esophageal to not develop. The wall of the esophagus is drawn downward and forward to the trachea, causing the esophagus to end as a closed tube rather than connect with the mouth.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for esophageal atresia?

There is no strong evidence that the anomalies are transmitted from parents to child. Although, there are clinical data to suggest that there may be some genetic background for the transmission of the abnormality. Genetic and recurrence risk for esophageal atresia are:

  • A number of patients who survive repair of EA anomalies have produced offspring with the same anomaly.
  • Siblings with esophageal atresia have been reported, including one family with three affected children.

Early childbirth might also be a factor to increase the risk of esophageal atresia.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is esophageal atresia diagnosed?

The symptoms of obstruction may not become evident until the late second trimester. In some cases, the delayed in diagnosed range from 26 days to 4 years after childbirth. Check-ups during pregnancy are used to check for fetal abnormalities, such as ultrasound or MRI.

How is esophageal atresia treated?

If esophageal atresia is diagnosed during pregnancy, doctors might advise you to wait until the baby is born. If esophageal atresia is strongly suspected, you should consider delivery in a tertiary-care center to have immediate fetal care after the baby is born.

After your child is born, you and your doctor can take in other considerations, such as whether your child is born full term or not, birth weight, and pulmonary function, to determine a surgical solution for your child. If your child has a high chance of recovery after surgery, your doctor will perform a procedure to close the fistula and connect the child’s digestive tube. However, this method might not be possible if the distance between esophageal segments is large.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage esophageal atresia?

The following remedies can help setting an appropriate pregnancy termination or delivery:

  • The fetus should be assessed for associated defects immediately after birth.
  • Sonographic evaluation for VACTERL (vertebral, anal, cardiac, tracheal, esophageal, renal, limb) association includes careful assessment of the spine, heart, kidneys, skeleton, and umbilical cord.
  • Fetal echocardiography, given the increased prevalence of cardiac malformations.
  • Early prenatal diagnosis provides an opportunity for parental counseling and preparation, screening for associated anomalies.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 4, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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