An atresia refers to a condition that your child is born with where a part of the digestive tract has failed to form properly. It is essentially a blockage somewhere along the tube from their throat down to their anus. This results in an obstruction to fluid and solids passing normally through the digestive tract. It may affect any part of the digestive tract but is most common in the oesophagus and small bowel.
This is often first noticed after birth when your child is unable to feed properly and develops vomiting and often swelling or distension of the abdomen. Sometimes these conditions can be diagnosed antenatally on ultrasound by your obstetrician.
Babies with oesophageal atresia may also have an abnormal connection of the oesophagus to the trachea/windpipe. This is called a tracheoesophageal fistula or TOF. This can cause saliva or milk to enter the lungs and result in infection and difficulty breathing.
It is common for children with oesophageal and intestinal atresia to have other associated abnormalities including conditions of the heart and kidneys. If your child has an oesophageal or intestinal atresia they will be screened for other associated conditions.
Surgical repair is needed to allow your child to feed properly and surgery is usually performed soon after birth.