Esophageal Atresia | Symptoms & Causes

What causes esophageal atresia?

There are four types of esophageal atresia (EA):

Type A. The upper and lower segments of the esophagus end in pouches, like dead-end streets that don't connect. Tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) is not present.

Type B. The lower segment ends in a blind pouch. TEF is present on the upper segment. This type is very rare.

Type C. The upper segment ends in a blind pouch. TEF is present on the lower segment. This is the most common type.

Type D. TEF is present on both upper and lower segments. This is the rarest form of EA/TEF.

The exact cause of EA is still unknown, but it appears to have some genetic components. Up to half of all babies born with EA have one or more other birth defects, such as:

EA and TEF are also often found in babies born with VACTERL (vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheo-esophageal fistula, renal anomalies and limb abnormalities) syndrome. Not all babies born with VACTERL syndrome have abnormalities in all of these areas.

Long-gap EA may also result from surgery to try to fix a milder case of EA, or to repair a TEF.

What are the signs and symptoms of esophageal atresia?

The first signs of esophageal atresia are usually clearly seen very soon after birth. The most common are:

  •  frothy white bubbles in your baby's mouth
  • coughing or choking when feeding
  • blue color of the skin, especially when your baby is feeding
  • difficulty breathing