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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
Tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) is an abnormal connection in one or more places between your child's esophagus and the trachea. TEF can cause respiratory (breathing) problems as a result of stomach (gastric) juices passing through the fistula and into the lungs. TEF usually occurs with esophageal atresia (EA).
At Boston Children’s Esophageal Airway Treatment Center, our doctors usually repair this condition in one operation in the first day or two of your baby's life. Many surgeons will try to repair the TEF with minimally invasive techniques, unsuccessfully, increasing the risk that it will reoccur. The scarring caused by these procedures makes further repair more difficult. Recurring (repeating) TEF can be larger and more dangerous. Recurring TEF can potentially damage other structures, such as the voice box.
Normally, the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach) and the trachea (the tube connecting the throat to the windpipe and lungs) are separate.
A tracheoesophageal fistula is an abnormal connection between these two tubes. As a result, swallowed liquids or food can be aspirated (inhaled) into your child’s lungs. Feeding into the stomach directly can also lead to reflux (regurgitation) and inhalation (aspiration) of the stomach acid and food. Your child can have one or more fistulas (TEFs).
After repair of a TEF, there is an increasing likelihood that the TEF will return (recurrent TEF), and be larger and more dangerous with time. It is also possible, though rare, that a TEF can be present from the upper end of the esophagus to the trachea. This means that swallowed liquids would pass directly into the lungs.
TEF often occurs with esophageal atresia.
After your child is diagnosed with tracheoesophageal fistula, you may feel overwhelmed with information. Your neonatologist or pediatric surgeon may suggest that your child be treated at the hospital where you delivered.
However, given the rarity of this condition and the importance of a successful first treatment to avoid further recurrence(repeated procedures can result in complications), it is important to know all of your options. You want the best possible care for your child, which means working with surgeons who have significant experience treating this condition and have proven, excellent results.
Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor:
To make an appointment or speak with a member of our team, please call 617-355-3038.
For families residing outside of the United States, please call Boston Children's International Health Services at +01-617-355-5209.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”