Esophageal atresia (EA) is a birth defect in which the baby’s esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach) does not form properly before birth. For babies with EA, the esophagus has two separate parts – an upper and lower part – that do not connect. This makes it impossible for the baby to get enough nutrition by mouth because they cannot pass food from the mouth to the stomach.

Types of Esophageal Atresia

There are four types of EA:

  • Type A. When the upper and lower parts of the esophagus do not connect and have closed ends, like pouches. In “long gap” EA, the two pouches are very far apart. There is no abnormal connection to the other structures from the esophagus. Food and nutrition escape through the opening. This is the second most common type.
  • Type B. The upper part of the esophagus does not connect to the lower part but is attached to the trachea, while the lower part of the esophagus is closed. Type B is very rare.
  • Type C. This is the opposite of type B. The upper part of the esophagus has a closed end, while the lower part of the esophagus is attached to the trachea. Type C is the most common type.
  • Type D. The upper and lower parts of the esophagus are not connected, and each part is connected separately to the trachea. Type D is the rarest and most severe form of EA.
  • Type E. The esophagus is completely connected, but it has an abnormal connection to the trachea. Another name for it is an “H type fistula.”

Symptoms of Esophageal Atresia

EA is almost always diagnosed in the first few days following birth. Signs and symptoms of EA can include:

  • Bluish tint to the skin (cyanosis) during feeding
  • Coughing or choking during feeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inability for the medical team to pass a tube from the nose or mouth into the stomach
  • White bubbles in your baby’s mouth

When to see a doctor

If your baby is having any trouble with feeding, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Causes of Esophageal Atresia

EA is caused by developmental problems before a baby is born.

Who’s at risk

There is no known reason why some babies develop EA. However, up to half of babies with EA are also born with other birth defects, such as:

  • Heart defects
  • Kidney problems
  • Muscle or bone problems
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula or TEF (an unusual connection between the esophagus and the windpipe)
  • Tracheomalacia (a weakness of the walls of the windpipe)
  • Urinary tract abnormalities

Request an Appointment

Contact an Orlando Health doctor

If you suspect that your child may have esophageal artesia, make an appointment with an Orlando Health pediatrician today so your child can start on the road to improved health.