Intestinal Atresia and Stenosis | Diagnosis & Treatment

How are intestinal atresia and stenosis diagnosed?

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis. If doctors suspect an intestinal obstruction after your baby is born, they will run tests to see whether there is an obstruction, and if so, determine its location. These diagnostic tests may include:

Doctors may also perform imaging studies of your child's heart and kidneys to check for the anomalies that sometimes accompany intestinal obstructions.

How are intestinal atresia and stenosis treated?

Surgery is often the best option for treating intestinal obstructions. During surgery, the surgeon will make an incision in your baby's abdomen and remove the affected part of the intestine, taking care to leave as much of your baby's healthy intestine in place as possible. Then the surgeon will reconnect your baby's intestines.

If a child doesn't have enough small intestine, the remaining part tries to fix the problem on its own. It puffs up like a balloon, creating more surface area to draw in nutrients. But this has an unfortunate side effect: The wider the intestine, the longer it takes for the body to move nutrients through it. More time in the intestines means more time for the bacteria that would normally be swept promptly along to multiply, increasing your child's chance of infection.

To solve both problems at once, surgeons at Boston Children's developed the serial transverse enteroplasty procedure (STEP). This approach exposes more usable surface area and also creates a narrower space, which keeps food moving through your child's digestive tract at an appropriate pace, carrying bacteria out of the body along with the rest of the body's waste.

After surgery, your baby may receive a special, easily digested formula through an IV, and our team will monitor them carefully to assess how well their intestines are healing. When the time is right, we'll transition your child to fewer IV feedings and more oral or tube feedings, with the goal of weaning them off of IV feedings completely.