What is the definition of Esophageal Atresia?

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.

What are the causes for Esophageal Atresia?

Esophageal atresia (EA) is a congenital defect. This means it occurs before birth. There are several types. In most cases, the upper esophagus ends and does not connect with the lower esophagus and stomach.

Most infants with EA have another defect called tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF). This is an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the windpipe (trachea).

In addition, infants with EA/TEF often have tracheomalacia. This is a weakness and floppiness of the walls of the windpipe, which can cause breathing to sound high-pitched or noisy.

Some babies with EA/TEF have other defects as well, most commonly heart defects.

What are the symptoms for Esophageal Atresia?

Symptoms of EA may include:

  • Bluish coloration to the skin (cyanosis) with attempted feeding
  • Coughing, gagging, and choking with attempted feeding
  • Drooling
  • Poor feeding

What are the current treatments for Esophageal Atresia?

EA is a surgical emergency. Surgery to repair the esophagus is done as soon as possible after birth so that the lungs are not damaged and the baby can be fed.

Before the surgery, the baby is not fed by mouth and will need intravenous (IV) nutrition. Care is taken to prevent the travel of breathing secretions into the lungs.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Esophageal Atresia?

An early diagnosis gives a better chance of a good outcome.

What are the possible complications for Esophageal Atresia?

The infant may breathe saliva and other fluids into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia, choking, and possibly death.

Other complications may include:

  • Feeding problems
  • Reflux (the repeated bringing up of food from the stomach) after surgery
  • Narrowing (stricture) of the esophagus due to scarring from surgery

Prematurity may complicate the condition. As noted above, there may also be defects in other areas of the body.

When should I contact a medical professional for Esophageal Atresia?

This disorder is usually diagnosed shortly after birth.

Call your baby's provider right away if the baby vomits repeatedly after feedings, or if the baby develops breathing difficulties.


Madanick R, Orlando RC. Anatomy, histology, embryology, and developmental anomalies of the esophagus. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 42.

Rothenberg SS. Esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula malformations. In: Holcomb GW, Murphy JP, St. Peter SD, eds. Holcomb and Ashcraft's Pediatric Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2020:chap 27.

Wolf RB. Abdominal imaging. In: Resnik R, Lockwood CJ, Moore TR, Greene MF, Copel JA, Silver RM, eds. Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2019:chap 26.

  • Condition: Esophageal Atresia
  • Journal: Georgian medical news
  • Treatment Used: Silicone Bougie vs. Alternative Methods
  • Number of Patients: 28
  • Published —
This study compared silicone bougie versus alternative methods in the postoperative treatment of patients with esophageal atresia (narrowing).
  • Condition: Congenital Tracheoesophageal Fistula in Very Low Birth Weight Preterm Neonate with an Oligohydramnios
  • Journal: JNMA; journal of the Nepal Medical Association
  • Treatment Used: Surgery and Endoscopic Balloon Dilatation
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report describes a congenital tracheoesophageal fistula (abnormal opening) in a very low birth weight preterm neonate treated with surgery and endoscopic balloon dilatation.