Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Intestinal Atresia Treatment

The only treatment for intestinal atresia is surgery. But before surgery, your baby's doctors will:

  • Stabilize your baby's health
  • Insert a tube (nasogastric tube, NG tube, or orogastric tube, OG tube) that passes through your baby's nose or mouth into the stomach. The tube empties the stomach and keeps gas out.
  • Place an IV (intravenous) line, a tube that goes into a vein to replace fluids lost while your baby is vomiting or unable to eat

Surgery for Intestinal Atresia

At the time of surgery, we will give your child medicine to make them sleep without pain.

The surgeon will make a cut, or incision, in your child's abdomen and examine the intestine to find the part that is blocked. Then, the surgeon will make cuts on both sides of the blocked sections and make openings that can be sewn together. This allows the intestine to become an open tube. Sometimes the surgeon has to remove parts of the intestine to correct the problem. Once the blockage is repaired, the surgeon will close the incision in the skin.

If your baby's doctors suspect your child may have trouble feeding, the baby may need a feeding tube, called a gastrostomy (pronounced gas-STRAH-stuh-mee) tube (G tube). The surgeon will place this tube during the surgery.

How long the surgery takes depends on what your child needs. Before surgery, the surgeon can give you an estimate of how long your child's operation will take. Most of children who have this surgery are already in the intensive care unit (ICU) before surgery. After surgery, they either go back to the ICU or to the recovery room. For babies, Seattle Children's Level IV NICU provides the high level of care your baby needs. Children's is the first hospital in Washington to have a Level IV NICU.

Gastrostomy for intestinal atresia

Some children need a feeing tube, called a gastrostomy tube or G tube, placed into their stomach to receive nutrients. Your child's surgeon will talk with you if your child might need a G tube.

During gastrostomy, the surgeon makes an opening through the wall of your child's belly. The surgeon then gently puts in a tube or a device called a gastrostomy button. Both provide safe ways to give nutrition and medicine until your child can feed by mouth. You will be taught how to take care of the tube or button and the skin around it, and how to feed your child through the gastrostomy.

After Surgery for Intestinal Atresia

After surgery, we will give your child pain medicine to make them comfortable. Most likely, your child will have an NG or OG tube. They will get fluids and antibiotics through an IV.

Your child will stay in the hospital for at least a couple of weeks. If there are no other birth defects or complications, the stay will likely be two to four weeks. Some children take longer to recover, especially if they have other problems.

In some cases, it may take several weeks or longer for your child's intestine to recover enough so that they can eat by mouth. Until that time, your child will get nutrition through a special IV called a PICC line, or through a G-tube. Your child may have both a PICC line and a G-tube. The surgery team will be able to give you an idea of how long your child will have these devices and what to expect with feeding.

By the time you go home, your child's incision most likely will be well healed. There are usually no restrictions on activity or bathing.

About one to three weeks after going home from the hospital, your child will see the surgeon for a follow-up visit. The surgeon will make sure your child is gaining weight and growing well. The surgeon will check to make sure there are no other health issues. During this visit, you and your child will probably also see a dietitian to help with feeding issues.