Also known as: biliary atresia, duodenal atresia, esophageal atresia, intestinal atresia.

What is atresia?

Atresia is a medical term that means that a body part that is tubular in nature does not have a normal opening, or lacks the ability to allow material to pass through it. It can impact everything from the esophagus to the anus to various blood vessels throughout the body.

What causes atresia?
In most cases, atresia is a genetic defect that is present at birth. It’s often present along with other birth defects or abnormalities.

What are the symptoms of atresia?
Symptoms of atresia range widely depending on which body part is affected Individuals with esophageal atresia will be unable to ingest food normally. The resulting symptoms are directly tied to the area where the flow of a bodily fluid is blocked. Infants and persons with biliary atresia will experience a yellow discoloration of the skin, called jaundice; and problems related to abnormal liver function.

What are atresia care options?
Most cases of atresia can be repaired surgically to create an opening or repair the abnormal structure in the body. In some extreme cases, intestinal transplantation may be needed if the intestinal tract is not functional. In addition to surgery, infants and persons with biliary atresia will require supplemental medications and dietary changes to help support the inflammation in the liver that arises with this particular condition. In some persons with biliary atresia, liver transplantation becomes necessary.

Reviewed by: John M. Peters, DO

This page was last updated on: 2/5/2018 3:43:05 PM


Dr. Lina Felipez is Director of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Research and a pediatric gastroenterologist within the Division of Gastroenterology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.

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