Intestinal atresia is present at birth. It is an area of the intestine that has not formed correctly. In some, the intestine may be completely closed off. Atresia makes it impossible for food or fluids to pass through.
Atresia can happen in the small or large intestines and may be named by the location:
- Pyloric atresia—just after the stomach
- Duodenal atresia—first portion of small intestine by the stomach
- Jejunal atresia—small intestine between upper and lower portions
- Ilial atresia—occurs in last portion of small intestine
- Colonic atresia—occurs in large colon
|Normal Anatomy of the Intestines|
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A prenatal ultrasound will be able to detect extra fluid around the baby. The doctor may suspect the extra fluid is due to atresia. More tests will be planned after birth to confirm the diagnosis.
After birth, your child’s doctor will review your child’s symptoms. Images of the intestines will be taken to confirm the diagnosis and locate the atresia. Tests that will help create images of the intestines include:
- Abdominal X-ray
- Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series
- Lower GI series
Some types of atresia are associated with other health problems. To look for other related problems the doctor may order:
- An echocardiogram of the heart
- Prenatal genetic screening such as amniocentesis
- Images of the kidney
- A sweat chloride test to check for cystic fibrosis
Intestinal atresia cannot be treated until after birth.
Treatment will include surgery to repair the intestine and supportive care.
Nutrition normally enters the body through the intestines. Since the intestines are not working properly, nutrition will be delivered directly into the blood stream. Your baby will have an IV or small belly button tube. Nutrition will be delivered through the tube before and after surgery.
After surgery, the intestines will need a few days or weeks to heal. Small amounts of breast milk or formula will be slowly introduced to your baby. IV nutrition will continue to support your baby during this transition. The IV will be removed when your baby can tolerate enough breast milk or formula.
Remove Gas and Fluids
Fluid and gas can build up in the intestine. They can cause uncomfortable swelling in the abdomen and vomiting. The fluid and gas can cause complications during surgery.
A tube will be passed through the nose and into the stomach. The tube will drain fluids and gas out of the stomach and intestines. This will relieve some of the pressure in the abdomen.
Surgery will be needed to remove the damaged part of the intestine. The healthy parts of the intestine will be reconnected. Additional steps may depend on the amount of intestine that is damaged. A large area may need more than one surgery.
A feeding tube may be placed through the abdomen. This tube will help drain the stomach and deliver food.
Surgery in the lower intestine may also require a colostomy. The upper part of the remaining intestine is attached to an opening in the abdominal wall. This will allow waste to pass out of the body and give the lower intestines time to heal.
Most babies do well after surgery. Follow-up care will ensure that the intestines are working as expected.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Pyloric Atresia; Duodenal Atresia; Ilial Atresia; Jejunal Atresia; Colonic Atresia; Atresia, Intestinal)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
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Intestinal atresia and stenosis in children. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/intestinal-atresia-and-stenosis/overview. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Intestinal atresia or stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116387/Intestinal-atresia-or-stenosis . Updated July 28, 2015. Accessed June 6, 2016.