What is duodenal atresia?
Duodenal atresia is a problem with the development of a baby's duodenum, the part of the small intestine that connects the stomach to the rest of the intestine. Instead of an open tube into the intestine, a baby with duodenal atresia has a blockage or gap between the duodenum and intestine. This prevents food and fluid from going to the small intestine and forces it back upwards instead.
Causes of duodenal atresia
The cause of duodenal atresia is unknown. During pregnancy, your baby’s duodenum normally changes from a solid form to a tube (recanalization). Duodenal atresia occurs when recanalization does not completely happen.
Duodenal atresia is present in more than one in 5,000 live births. About one-third of infants with duodenal atresia may have Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) as well as other congenital differences. Your doctor may recommend additional testing, such as amniocentesis or genetic testing, to identify any other areas of concern.
Types of duodenal atresia
Duodenal atresia can be partial or complete. In a partial atresia, the area is narrowed so much that nothing can pass through. In a complete atresia, there is a section missing from the duodenum, which creates a gap between the stomach and intestines where they should be joined. In either case, the blocked part of the duodenum is called the atretic area.
Signs and symptoms of duodenal atresia
During pregnancy, duodenal atresia causes extra amniotic fluid to build up. This is known as polyhydramnios. This is because your baby cannot get the fluid from the stomach to the intestine. An ultrasound during pregnancy as well as an X-ray after birth shows a "double bubble." This is caused by fluid and air in your baby’s stomach and duodenum, where it gets trapped rather than moving on to the intestine.
A baby born with duodenal atresia may have a stomach area that appears to be normal, or they may have symptoms such as:
Stomach area swelling
Early vomiting that is often green
Continued vomiting even when the infant has not been fed
Little or no stooling (pooping)