Intestinal atresia and stenosis Symptoms & Causes

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The small intestine (small bowel) varies in length between 10 and 28 feet, and is divided into three main sections:

1. The duodenum is a relatively short section of the small intestine, measuring about 10 to 12 inchesl. It links the stomach to the rest of the small intestine.

2. The jejunum is the largest section, because its many folds give it increased surface area for absorbing nutrients.

3. The ileum is the last and longset section of the small intestine, accounting for around 3/5 of the small intestine. It connects to the large intestine.

4. The empty space in the intestine (through which digested food travels) is called the lumen.

What are the types of intestinal atresia and stenosis?

Intestinal obstructions are usually classified according to where in your child’s intestine the absence, blockage or narrowing is found. Obstruction in the duodenum is known as duodenal atresia/stenosis and obstructions in the jejunum or the ileum are both called jejunoileal atresia/stenosis.

How common are intestinal obstructions?

Intestinal obstructions occur in about one out of every 1,500 babies, and boys and girls are equally affected. 

Can intestinal atresia and stenosis be detected before birth?

Yes, intestinal obstructions are being more and more frequently identified during prenatal ultrasounds.

What are the complications of intestinal atresia and stenosis? 

While every child’s situation is unique, there sometimes relate to other conditions, and they seem to vary according to location:

  • Jejunal obstruction may accompany intestinal malrotation, hernia or abdominal wall defects that strangle the small intestine, interrupting its blood supply.
  • About half of all infants with duodenal obstruction are born prematurely, and more than 30 percent have Down’s syndrome. Between 50 and 75 percent have other anomalies, which often affect other parts of the digestive system, the heart or the kidneys.


What causes intestinal atresia and stenosis?

Intestinal atresia and stenosis are thought to be caused by an inadequate supply of blood to your baby’s intestines during fetal development. They appear to run in families, although a specific genetic cause has yet to be discovered.


What are the signs of intestinal atresia and stenosis?

If your baby has an intestinal obstruction, it will usually be discovered within a day or two of his birth. You and/or your child’s doctors may notice him:

  • not tolerating feedings
  • vomiting
  • with an abdomen looks bloated (distended)


Q: What is the treatment for intestinal obstruction?
When possible, surgery can remove the obstruction and/or reconnect your baby’s intestines. If surgery is not an option, intestinal obstruction can sometimes be treated with medication or nutritional protocols. 

Q: What’s the long-term outlook for my child?
Your child’s prognosis greatly depends on several factors, including how much of the small bowel is left after surgery and whether he has an associated condition. Many babies do quite well after surgery, and never have a problem again.

Other babies need to continue nutritional support (a special formula through an IV or tube) for weeks, months or years, or even need an intestinal transplant. You can rest assured that your baby’s health care team will closely monitor his progress after treatment, and keep you aware of his status and any additional treatment options that may help.

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