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Pediatric Tracheoesophageal Fistula



Tracheoesophageal fistula is a rare congenital defect. When an infant has a tracheoesophageal fistula, there are one or more abnormal connections between the child’s esophagus and trachea. The infant usually has problems with swallowing and eating. 

Expanded overview

The tracheoesophageal fistula allows liquid and stomach acid from the esophagus to pass to the trachea, causing pneumonia and other complications. Many newborns with tracheoesophageal fistula also have congenital heart defects, kidney and urinary tract problems and muscular or skeletal problems.


Doctors usually note signs of tracheoesophageal fistula soon after birth.

  • Cough or choke upon feeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Distended abdomen
  • Frothy, white bubbles in their mouths

Tests and Diagnosis

Imaging studies often can detect tracheoesophageal fistula.


Newborns with a tracheoesophageal fistula require surgery to repair the connections between the esophagus and trachea and prevent complications.  Some infants require multiple surgeries.


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