Intestinal atresia (absence of a normal opening) is the failure of a portion of the intestinal tract to completely form. It occurs most frequently in the ileum (lower part of the small intestine). It can also occur in the duodenum (part of the intestine that empties from the stomach), jejunum (second part of the intestine extending from the duodenum to the ileum), or the colon (large intestine). Diagnosis can be made by ultrasound during pregnancy or can present on the first to second day of life. Abdominal distension (inflation) increases, the infant fails to pass stools, and, finally, feedings are vomited. The cause of intestinal atresia is not known.
Duodenal atresia can often be diagnosed prenatally. After delivery, the infant soon begins vomiting. An x-ray of the abdomen will usually diagnose the problem. Almost one third of babies with duodenal atresia have Down syndrome.
Atresias can also occur in the jejunum and ileum. There are several different types of jejunal and ileal atresia: they can range from having a small area of blockage or web to missing large sections of the intestines.
The intestinal atresia is resected (cut out) and a primary anastomosis (surgical formation of a passage) is performed. Sometimes a colostomy may need to be created. Depending on the type of atresia, the baby may be in the hospital for longer than one to two months. Your pediatric surgeon will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your child’s surgery.
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