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Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) & Esophageal Atresia

The esophagus is the long tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. Food is carried from the mouth to the stomach via this tube. The trachea, often called the windpipe, is how oxygen is carried to the lungs. Some babies are born with defects in these two tubes that can result in choking and possible intake of liquid into their lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia if not quickly corrected.

Common Defects

Two defects frequently occur together:

  • Esophageal atresia – upper portion of the esophagus is not connected to the lower esophagus and stomach region
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) – the upper portion of the esophagus is connected to part of the trachea

When babies are born with these conditions, it is critical that they have surgery to correct the problem. Pediatric surgeons at WakeMed were the first in the region to perform this lifesaving surgery for babies who need corrective surgery.

Tracheoesophageal Fistula and Esophageal Atresia Repair

Your baby is completely asleep during these minimally invasive surgeries. Typically, surgery is performed quickly after birth to ensure that the infant does not develop breathing complications or aspiration pneumonia. Also, both repairs are usually done together so that the baby does not have to undergo two surgeries.

How the Procedure is Performed

After administration of a general anesthesia to the patient, the pediatric surgeon makes a small incision on the right side of the chest, adjacent to the ribs. The fistula between the esophagus and trachea is closed shut and the upper and lower parts of the esophagus are stitched together. In some rare cases, these areas are far apart, allowing only the first repair. If this happens, the surgeon will insert a tube into the baby’s stomach so that he or she can receive nutrition. The baby will also receive numbing medications to prevent pain. At a later date (normally within four months), the surgeon can make the second repair to the esophagus.

More Information

Learn What to Expect from Tracheoesophageal Fistula and Esophageal Atresia Repair