Tracheo-oesophageal fistula (TOF)

Also known as Oesophageal atresia

A rare birth defect affecting the windpipe and oesophagus. If your baby experiences a tracheo-oesophageal fistula, our HCA UK gastroenterologists are able to diagnose and treat them

About tracheo-oesophageal fistula

A tracheo-oesophageal fistula is a rare birth defect. An abnormal connection occurs between your baby's trachea (windpipe) and oesophagus (the tube connecting their mouth to their stomach). This makes swallowing hard, and stomach acid can pass into their lungs. It is normally treated after birth with surgery, which our HCA UK surgeons can carry out.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of tracheo-oesophageal fistula icon plus

    Tracheo-oesophageal fistulas are often identified before birth. Ultrasound scans can detect excess amniotic fluid in the womb (the clear, yellowish fluid that surrounds your unborn baby). This is a symptom of the condition. After your baby is born, they may show some of the following symptoms:

    • breathing and/or swallowing problems
    • vomiting
    • coughing or choking whilst feeding
    • blue discolouration of the skin
    • round and full abdomen
  • Diagnosing tracheo-oesophageal fistula  icon plus

    Your consultant will closely monitor your baby's development during pregnancy. Ultrasound scans can help to diagnose tracheo-oesophageal fistulas. After your baby is born, we can offer other tests for diagnosis. For example:

    • Your midwife may try to pass a tube through your baby's nose, to see if it reaches their stomach. If this is not possible they might have TOF.
    • Taking an X-ray to check your baby's stomach in more detail.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If your baby is diagnosed with tracheo-oesophageal fistulas, they will require surgery to repair the defect. The procedure is normally carried out soon after birth, under general anaesthetic. Repair is achieved by your baby's surgeon closing off the fistula, and then sewing the lower and upper parts of their oesophagus. Rest assured, your baby's consultant will discuss this procedure with you in detail beforehand, helping to put your mind at ease.

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The HCA Healthcare UK network of hospitals and outpatient centres provides comprehensive care for gastroenterology problems from birth through to adulthood. 

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020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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