Intestinal atresia and stenosis

What are intestinal atresia and stenosis?

The small intestine is a very important part of the digestive tract: It's where we absorb most of the nutrients from the food we eat. But sometimes children may not be able to absorb all the nutrients their growing bodies require.

Intestinal atresia means that your child's intestines haven't formed correctly. There may be areas of blockage that prevent nutrients from flowing through the digestive tract, or some sections may not be connected to each other.

With intestinal stenosis, the intestine isn't completely blocked, but the inside space (lumen) has narrowed so much that it's difficult for nutrients to move through. Both intestinal atresia and intestinal stenosis are also sometimes referred to as intestinal obstructions.

Intestinal obstructions can nearly always be removed with surgery, but the procedure carries some risk. During surgery, the surgeon meticulously removes as little of the intestine as absolutely necessary, but sometimes fixing the obstruction means your child is left with not enough small intestine to absorb all the nutrition their growing body needs. This condition is called short bowel syndrome (SBS).

How we care for intestinal atresia and stenosis

At Boston Children's Hospital, we treat children with intestinal atresia and stenosis in our Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation (CAIR), one of the world's premier programs for treating children with SBS. The center includes a team of experts with decades of experience in caring for children with intestinal problems.

Our areas of innovation for intestinal atresia and stenosis

Our clinical care is informed by our research. Our researchers have made major contributions to the field: In 2002, doctors at Boston Children's performed the world's first serial transverse enteroplasty procedure (STEP), a surgical technique that lengthens the bowels of children with SBS.