Esophageal Atresia

What is esophageal atresia?

Esophageal atresia (EA) is a rare birth defect in which a baby is born without part of the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). Instead of forming a tube between the mouth and the stomach, the esophagus grows in two separate segments that do not connect. In some children, so much of the esophagus is missing that the ends can't be easily connected with surgery. This is known as long-gap EA.

EA frequently occurs along with tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF), and as many as half of all babies with EA/TEF have another birth defect, as well. Without a working esophagus, it's impossible to receive enough nutrition by mouth. Babies with EA are also more prone to infections like pneumonia and conditions such as acid reflux. Luckily, EA is usually treatable.

How we care for esophageal atresia

Although EA can be life-threatening in its most severe forms and could cause long-term nutritional concerns, the majority of children fully recover if it's detected early. The best treatment for EA is usually surgery to reconnect the two ends of the baby's esophagus to each other. The Esophageal and Airway Treatment Center at Boston Children's Hospital is one of the only programs in the country specifically designed to care for children with all forms of EA. After a diagnosis has been made, our team of experts will meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.

Our areas of innovation for esophageal atresia

Until recently, EA was a condition with no truly satisfactory treatment options. Previous treatments involved stressful stretching of the esophagus, drastic repositioning of internal organs such as gastric and colon esophageal interposition. For a child with long-gap EA, the revolutionary Foker process encourages natural growth and lengthening of a child's existing esophagus with the end result being an intact esophagus. The Esophageal and Airway Treatment Center is the world's only center offering the Foker process.