A to Z: Atresia, Esophageal

Learn about congenital defects and conditions that affect vessels, valves, and passages in the heart and other organs.

A to Z Dictionary 500 Go

Atresia (ah-TREE-zhah) is a condition in which a baby is born with a missing or closed valve or tube somewhere in his or her body.

Esophageal atresia is a defect of the digestive tract in which a baby is born with an esophagus that is not properly developed. It is treated surgically.

More to Know

Air, blood, bodily fluids, and waste products travel throughout the body in a system of vessels, tubes, and chambers that are often separated by valves. When a child is born with atresia, it means that a valve is missing or a tube is closed off. This interrupts the normal flow of blood, fluid, waste, or air, which can lead to a number of complications.

Most kinds of atresia are serious and can be fatal if they go untreated. Treatment usually involves surgery while the child is still an infant.

Atresia can affect many body parts, including the nose, ears, organs, digestive tract, and heart. The types of atresia are named for the body parts they affect:

  • Anal atresia (imperforate anus) is another defect of the digestive tract.
  • Choanal atresia is a defect of the nasal passages (choana).
  • Biliary atresia is a defect in the liver or bile system.
  • Tricuspid atresia, pulmonary atresia, and aortic atresia involve valves in the heart.

Keep in Mind

Most kinds of atresia can be treated successfully with surgery; some cases may require more than one operation.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.