Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Intestinal Atresia

What is intestinal atresia?

Intestinal atresia (IA) is a condition that occurs when part of your child’s intestine doesn’t form completely. Instead of being an open tube, the intestine is closed off in one or more places. Some children are missing segments of the intestine between the closed spots. IA prevents food and stool (feces) from moving through your child’s body, which can lead to symptoms like swelling and vomiting.

The severity of IA varies. Your child may have just a small blockage, or they may be missing large segments of intestine.

IA is most common in the small intestine, but it can happen in the large intestine. Doctors sometimes describe IA by naming the part of the intestine it affects. IA can be in:

  • The first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum (pronounced due-ODD-en-um)
  • The middle part of the small intestine, called the jejunum (pronounced jeh-JUNE-um)
  • The last part of the small intestine, called the ileum (pronounced ILL-ee-um)
  • The large intestine, called the colon

Intestinal Atresia in Children

IA is present when your baby is born (congenital).

IA in the duodenum, called duodenal atresia, is due to a problem in the way the duodenum forms while your baby is developing. It may be linked with problems in other parts of the body. About 1 in 2,500 babies has duodenal atresia.

IA in other parts of the intestine usually is caused by the loss of blood supply to that part. Atresia in the jejunum, ileum or colon is linked to atresia in other parts of the intestine. About 1 in 1,000 babies has jejunal or ileal atresia.

Intestinal Atresia at Seattle Children’s

We have treated many hundreds of children with IA. Our surgeons are experienced at performing the surgery that creates an intestine and allows food and stool to pass so these children can thrive. Each year, we take care of about 20 to 30 babies with IA.

IA treatment sometimes starts in our Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program. If doctors detect IA before a baby is born, our prenatal team helps families and their obstetricians get ready for the birth and plan for surgery to repair the intestine.

Read more about expert treatment for IA at Seattle Children’s.

Contact Us

If you have questions about IA treatment, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794, extension 4.