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What to Expect from Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) and Esophageal Atresia

  • Most likely, your baby will be admitted to WakeMed’s NICU prior to surgery for observation.
  • During this time, your infant may need intravenous fluids for nutrition.
  • Your baby's lungs may need to be suctioned to ensure they don't fill with fluids.
  • In some cases, your baby may have to delay surgery until they weigh enough for the procedure.

After Surgery

  • Your child will be admitted back to the NICU and kept in an incubator for warmth and to avoid infection.
  • He or she will receive antibiotics and nutrition through the IV until the repair has healed.
  • A chest tube will be inserted during surgery that will also help keep the lungs clear.
  • Your baby will receive supplemental oxygen to help with healing.

Recovery: What to Expect in the Next Few Weeks
Your baby’s hospital stay will depend on the complexity of the repair and how quickly he or she heals after surgery. If only the first repair was done, a gastrostomy tube will remain in place until the second surgery. Your baby’s nurse will show you how to use and care for the tube.

Most babies are discharged once they can begin eating by mouth or gastrostomy tube and weight is stabilized or increasing.

Question & Answer


What does the procedure involve?


After administration of a general anesthesia to your baby, 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 get nutrition. Your baby will also receive numbing medications to prevent pain. At a later date, typically within four months, the surgeon can make the second repair.


How many incisions are made?


One incision is made in the baby’s chest.


How long will my child stay in the hospital?


Your baby will remain in the NICU until he or she can begin eating/drinking by mouth or through the gastrostomy tube (until the second surgery date).


What is the recovery time?


Each baby’s recovery is different and will depend on the complexity of the repair and the baby’s health status prior to surgery. Your baby must be monitored over time as he or she could experience difficulties due to having a narrow esophagus or develop esophageal reflux, when acid is pushed back into the esophagus causing a burning sensation.