This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) is a life-threatening condition in which there is an abnormal connection between the esophagus and trachea (windpipe). The esophagus and trachea run next to each other through the chest cavity. The esophagus carries food and saliva to the stomach, while the trachea carries air to the lungs. TEF can lead to severe and fatal lung complications. Saliva and gastric secretions can be aspirated into the lungs, and normal swallowing and digestion of food cannot occur. Most affected people are diagnosed immediately after birth or during infancy. Symptoms may include frothy bubbles of mucus in the mouth and nose; episodes of coughing and choking; and worsening symptoms during feeding. TEF may be isolated, or it may occur with other physical or developmental abnormalities (most commonly, esophageal atresia). In many cases the cause is unknown but it has been associated with some chromosome disorders. In some cases it may be acquired later in life after a cancer, infection, ruptured diverticula, or trauma. Treatment includes immediate surgical repair with survival rates of almost 100%.
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