Duodenal atresia treatment in Denver, Colorado

Duodenal atresia is a congenital condition in which a portion of the small intestine is either narrowed or entirely blocked, preventing proper digestion. If left untreated, the condition is fatal. However, the expert pediatric surgeons and neonatologists at our Center for Maternal/Fetal Health  at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) are specially trained to diagnose and treat this rare condition.

In addition, our staff and facility are uniquely equipped to handle the careful treatment of your baby’s health during pregnancy as well as during and after birth.

To find an expert pediatric surgeon, contact us at (720) 754-4902

The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine that connects the stomach to the bowel. It usually develops before the eleventh week of gestation. Some babies (an estimated one in every 7,000 live births) do not form this structure properly. It may be very narrow (duodenal stenosis) or entirely closed (duodenal atresia). This blockage does not allow for the free passage of food from the stomach to the intestine. Approximately 30 percent of babies with duodenal atresia also have Down’s syndrome.

Duodenal atresia diagnosis

Duodenal atresia can be diagnosed during pregnancy or after birth. If diagnosed during a prenatal ultrasound, experts will see a “double bubble.” Because extra fluid develops in the duodenum and in the stomach but is separated by blockage, it appears as two bubbles side by side. Another prenatal indication of this condition is excessive amniotic fluid, or polyhydramnios.

A healthy fetus swallows and urinates amniotic fluid throughout the pregnancy. Because duodenal atresia prevents normal digestion, amniotic fluid may begin to accumulate, causing concern for the mother’s health, as well as the baby’s health.

After birth, a baby with duodenal atresia will present with:

  • Swollen upper abdomen
  • Lack of bowel movements after meconium stools
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Lack of urination

Newborns with duodenal atresia undergo an X-ray of the abdomen to provide a clear picture of the condition. Air will be visualized in the stomach and the first part of the duodenum but not after that point, indicating the blockage.

Duodenal atresia surgery

Babies who have been diagnosed with duodenal atresia are carefully monitored during pregnancy, and a plan for delivery at a specialized facility is set. Most babies with duodenal atresia do not require a Cesarean section (C-section) for delivery but will require special attention just after birth. Therefore, it is important to plan delivery at a hospital specially equipped with a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU ), neonatologists, expert pediatric surgeons and other experienced staff.

For babies without further complications, surgery is performed during the first few days after birth. The expert surgeons of Rocky Mountain Pediatric Surgery  are highly skilled in using laparoscopic (minimally invasive ) surgical techniques to reduce the impact of surgery on the baby’s body. During surgery, tiny instruments are used to remove the affected area and reconnect the healthy pieces of the stomach and intestine.

To discuss diagnosis and treatment of duodenal atresia, call our care team at 720-754-7642.

Follow-up care for patients with duodenal atresia

Babies with duodenal atresia can have serious complications so follow-up care is important. Bowel problems, feeding issues and nutritional absorption difficulties may occur. Our team provides careful monitoring, treatment and follow-up care to allow babies to live happy, full lives.