For the first time in Israel, doctors at the Hadassah University Medical Center are employing endoscopic intervention to correct fistula (abnormal connections of the esophagus and trachea) in babies, avoiding the risky conventional surgical option.
Normally, the esophagus and the trachea are two separate, unconnected tubes. About one in every 4,000 children, however, is born with an abnormality where the esophagus is blocked at the top and at the bottom. In most cases, the esophagus is connected to the trachea. When a baby with this condition swallows, liquid can pass through the abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea and get into the baby’s lungs and cause pneumonia.
During surgery, the abnormal connection is removed and the esophagus is reconnected at both ends. In five to ten percent of cases, however, the fistula returns, causing difficulty breathing, choking during meals, and recurrent lung infections. When this occurs, additional surgery is necessary. Each surgical intervention results in scars that can often be life threatening.
With the new treatment, the fistula is sealed by endoscopy. Prof. Chaim Springer, head of Hadassah’s Pediatric Pulmonology Unit, and pediatric pulmonologists Prof. Avraham Avital and Dr. Shlomo Cohen have already performed the new procedure on eight children, successfully treating the fistula for six of them.