Your baby will be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as soon as the doctors diagnose either of these problems.
Your baby will receive nutrition by vein (intravenous, or IV) and may also be on a breathing machine (ventilator). The nurses may use suction to keep fluids from going into the lungs.
Some infants who are premature, have a low birth weight, or have other birth defects beside TEF and/or EA may not be able to have surgery until these other problems have been treated or have gone away.
After the Procedure
After surgery, your child will be cared for in the hospital's NICU. Your child will be placed in a special bed called an incubator, which provides warmth and helps prevent infection.
Additional treatments after surgery usually include:
Antibiotics as needed, to prevent infection
Breathing machine (ventilator)
Chest tube (a tube through the skin into the chest wall) to drain fluids and keep the lungs open
A tube is placed through the nose into the stomach (nasogastric tube) during the surgery.
Feedings are usually started through this tube a few days after surgery.
Feedings by mouth are started slowly. The baby may need feeding therapy.
If only the TEF is repaired, a gastrostomy tube is used for feedings until the atresia can be repaired.
While your baby is in the hospital, the nurses will show you how to use and replace the gastrostomy tube. You will also be sent home with an extra gastrostomy tube. The nurses will inform a home health supply company of your equipment needs.
How long your infant stays in the hospital depends on the type of surgery your child has. You will be able to bring your baby home once he or she is taking feedings by mouth or gastrostomy tube and is gaining weight.
Surgery can usually repair a TEF and EA. Once healing from the surgery is complete, your child may have these problems:
The part of the esophagus that was repaired may become narrower. Your child may need to have more surgery to treat this.
Your child may have heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). This occurs when acid from the stomach goes up into the esophagus. GERD may cause breathing problems.
During infancy and early childhood, many children will have problems with breathing, growth, and feeding, and will need to continue seeing both their primary care provider and specialists.
Khan S, Orenstein SR. Congenital anomalies. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 311.
Song C, Upperman JS, Niklas V. Structural anomalies of the gastrointestinal tract. In: Gleason CA, Devaskar SU, eds. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 69.
Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.