Small bowel atresia is a birth defect that affects a part of the small intestine, the tube that connects the stomach to the large intestine. The small intestine, which helps digest food, has three parts: the duodenum, ileum and jejunum.
A child who is born with duodenal atresia has no connection between the duodenum and the ileum. Ileal atresia is when the ileum and the jejunum aren't connected. Jejunal atresia is when the jejunum and the first part of the large intestine aren't connected.
Doctors may suspect a fetus has small bowel atresia if a pregnant woman has too much amniotic fluid. Duodenal atresia may be diagnosed on an ultrasound before the baby is born. Doctors may also notice the problem on an ultrasound or X-ray after the baby is born. Newborns with small bowel atresia vomit frequently, which is also a sign that something is wrong.
Small bowel atresia requires immediate surgery. Before surgery, a small tube — called a nasogastric (NG) tube — will be placed through your child's nose or mouth and down into the stomach to drain excess fluid and air.
During the operation, the surgeon will make an incision in your child's abdomen so that she can examine the stomach and intestines and locate the blocked part of the small intestine. She'll open up the blocked end of the intestine and connect it to the area of small bowel just past the blockage.
After surgery, your child will go back to her hospital room. Your child will still have the NG tube in her nose or mouth. Here's what else to expect:
Your child will be discharged from the hospital when:
Once your child comes home, he may have formula or breast milk. You may also give him acetaminophen (TYLENOL) — according to his doctor's instructions — for any pain he may have.
The STERI-STRIPS will fall off on their own, or once the edges begin to curl up and are no longer covering the incision, you may remove them.
Two weeks after discharge, you'll need to take your child for a follow-up appointment with his surgeon.
Please call your child's doctor (at Children's Hospital, call 215-590-2730) if:
Reviewed by: Surgical Advanced Practice Nurses
Date: November 2008