Intestinal atresia is present at birth. It is an area of the intestine that has not formed correctly. In some, the intestine may be completely closed off. Atresia makes it impossible for food or fluids to pass through.

Atresia can happen in the small or large intestines and may be named by the location:

  • Pyloric atresia—just after the stomach
  • Duodenal atresia—first portion of small intestine by the stomach
  • Jejunal atresia—small intestine between upper and lower portions
  • Ilial atresia—occurs in last portion of small intestine
  • Colonic atresia—occurs in large colon
Normal Anatomy of the Intestines  
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It is not exactly clear what causes intestinal atresia. Low blood flow to the intestines during development may play a role.


Risk Factors  

Some types of atresia have a genetic link. They tend to occur in families.

Risk factors of jejuno-ileal atresia include use of tobacco or cocaine during pregnancy.



Atresia may cause extra fluid to surround the baby during pregnancy.

After birth, symptoms in the baby may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Lack of a first stool
  • Lack of interest in feedings


A prenatal ultrasound will be able to detect extra fluid around the baby. The doctor may suspect the extra fluid is due to atresia. More tests will be planned after birth to confirm the diagnosis.

After birth, your child’s doctor will review your child’s symptoms. Images of the intestines will be taken to confirm the diagnosis and locate the atresia. Tests that will help create images of the intestines include:

Some types of atresia are associated with other health problems. To look for other related problems the doctor may order:

  • An echocardiogram of the heart
  • Genetic screening such as amniocentesis —before birth
  • Images of the kidney
  • A sweat chloride test to check for cystic fibrosis


Intestinal atresia cannot be treated until after birth.

Treatment will include surgery to repair the intestine and supportive care.