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Intestinal atresia

David E Wesson, MD
Section Editors
Melvin B Heyman, MD, MPH
Joseph A Garcia-Prats, MD
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


An atresia is a congenital defect of a hollow viscus that results in complete obstruction of the lumen. Intestinal atresia is one of the most frequent causes of bowel obstruction in the newborn and can occur at any point in the gastrointestinal tract. The ileum is the most commonly affected site.  

The outcome of intestinal atresia following surgical repair is very good. In general, morbidity and mortality depend upon associated medical conditions such as prematurity or cystic fibrosis, other congenital anomalies, the complexity of the lesion, and surgical complications.

Atresia and stenosis of the small and large intestine are reviewed here. Esophageal atresia and anorectal malformations, including rectal atresia, are discussed separately. (See "Congenital anomalies of the intrathoracic airways and tracheoesophageal fistula", section on 'Tracheoesophageal fistula and esophageal atresia' and "Functional constipation in infants and children: Clinical features and differential diagnosis", section on 'Other causes'.)


The most common site of intestinal atresia is the small intestine (jejunum and ileum). The incidence of jejunal and ileal atresia ranges from one in 1500 to one in 12,000 births [1].

Duodenal atresia occurs in one in 10,000 to 40,000 births and represents up to 60 percent of intestinal atresias [1]. Approximately 30 percent of infants with duodenal atresia have a chromosomal anomaly, primarily Down syndrome. (See "Down syndrome: Clinical features and diagnosis".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 15, 2016.
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