Esophageal atresia with proximal tracheoesophageal fistula: A missed diagnosis

Filippo Parolini, Anna Morandi, Francesco Macchini, Lorena Canazza, Maurizio Torricelli, Andrea Zanini, Ernesto Leva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim of the Study This retrospective study was performed to compare the relative incidence of esophageal atresia (EA) with proximal tracheoesophageal fistula (PTEF) at our institution with those reported in literature and to test the hypothesis that our higher relative incidence is caused by the routine use of tracheoscopy. Methods A total of 204 children with EA were managed at our institution from 1981 to 2012. The type of EA and the diagnostic assessment were noted, and the relative incidence of PTEF was calculated. For patients managed from 1981 to 2003 (Group 1), the PTEF was diagnosed by contrast esophagogram or during surgical repair. For those born after 2004 (Group 2), the final diagnosis was made by routine rigid tracheoscopy performed preoperatively. The relative incidence of PTEF was compared between these two groups and with those reported in 15 selected published large series, encompassing 4197 patients with EA. Main Results Of 204 patients with EA, 10 had PTEF, with a relative incidence of 4.9%, statistically higher than those reported in reference group (1.14%, P <0.001). The routine employ of tracheoscopy involved a higher relative incidence of PTEF (Group 2 = 11.11%, Group 1 = 3.14%, P = 0.038). The age of diagnosis of PTEF was 2.8 days for children of Group 2 and 4.2 days for Group 1 (P = 0.038). Conclusion The presence of the proximal TEF should be always ruled out before surgery. Routine employ of rigid tracheoscopy avoids delay of the diagnosis, improves diagnostic accuracy, and involves a higher relative incidence of proximal fistul. This procedure should be recommended in children undergoing EA repair.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Esophageal atresia
  • Newborns
  • Proximal tracheoesophageal fistula
  • Tracheobronchoscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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