Intestinal Atresia

What is it?

Intestinal atresia is a congenital (from birth) defect. With intestinal atresia, part of the intestine is missing or is improperly connected. Sometimes, other conditions are present with intestinal atresia, such as volvulus (a twisting of the intestines), intussusception, gastroschisis (PDF), or omphalocele. Many babies with intestinal atresia also have Down syndrome, cardiovascular disorders, or renal (kidney) problems.

What are the symptoms?

Increasingly, this condition is identified during prenatal ultrasounds while the child is still in utero, but if it is not, common symptoms in the newborn are:

  • inability to eat or serious problems with feedings.
  • yellowish, green, or sometimes brown vomit.
  • pain in the tummy and, sometimes, abdominal distention .

How is it treated?

Often, treatment will occur just after birth. The first goal of treatment will be to stabilize your child. A tube will be inserted through the nose into the stomach in order to release gases built up in the stomach. Intravenous fluids will be administered. Once your child is stable, surgery will be performed to fix the obstruction. A gastrostomy (tube implanted into the stomach) may be used to help drain the stomach and protect your child's airway.

Other treatment will depend on the severity of your child's intestinal atresia and other related conditions that may be present. Tests may be performed on your child's heart and kidneys.

About surgery for intestinal atresia at Children's

The surgery for intestinal atresia is commonly performed at Children's and often can be performed within days of birth. Pediatric general surgery teams at Children's provide next-generation care for intestinal atresia to children from throughout the Upper Midwest and consistently perform some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Surgery for intestinal atresia is performed at Children's – Minneapolis and Children's – St. Paul.

Contact us

  • If you are a family member looking for a Children's specialist in gastrointestinal surgery, please visit Find a Doctor.

  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).