Intestinal Atresia

This is a birth defect that results in a complete blockage (obstruction) or lack of continuity of the bowel. There are different types of intestinal atresia based on where along the intestine the blockage occurs:

  • Pyloric atresia: This is the rarest form of intestinal atresia. It results when there is blockage between the pylorus of the stomach and the first part of the intestine known as the duodenum.


  • Duodenal atresia: This type of atresia occurs in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine that is connected to the stomach.


  • Jejunoileal atresia: This is the most common type of neonatal obstruction, and can either be jejunal atresia in which there is blockage in the jejunum (the second part of the small intestine) or ileal atresia in which there is blockage in the ileum (the third part of the small intestine).


Diagnosis: Intestinal atresia may be diagnosed by prenatal ultrasound, usually during the third trimester. If it is not diagnosed prior to giving birth, signs after birth include bilious vomiting, abdominal distention, and failure to pass the first meconium stool. Post-natal diagnostic tools may include ultrasound, abdominal x-ray, or contrast studies to identify an area of blockage.


Treatment: After careful delivery or your infant, the neonate will be stabilized with intravenous (IV) fluids and the stomach will be decompressed by placement of a nasogastric (NG) tube, which is inserted in the nose and travels down the esophagus into the stomach. After stabilization, surgical repair of the obstruction is performed. Infants who are treated for small bowel atresia face several potential long-term complications, including mechanical bowel problems, feeding, and absorption difficulties, thus future nutritional support and intestinal rehabilitation may be required.


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