Children's Hospital Colorado
Colorado Fetal Care Center

Duodenal Atresia

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What is duodenal atresia?

Duodenal atresia is the leading cause of intestinal blockage (obstruction) in newborns and affects about 1 in every 10,000 live births. The condition is also sometimes called duodenal stenosis.

The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine. It sits directly below the stomach and leads into the small intestine. In babies with duodenal atresia, the duodenum is completely closed. Because the passage from the stomach into the intestine is closed, food and fluids can’t pass through.

What causes duodenal atresia?

Duodenal atresia develops before birth. If the duodenum doesn’t form properly during fetal development, the baby is born with a full or partial intestinal blockage. We don’t yet fully understand what causes these conditions, but an overgrowth of cells in the duodenum may play a role.

What other conditions are associated with duodenal atresia?

About 1 in 3 babies with duodenal atresia also has Down syndrome. Babies with duodenal atresia — whether they have Down syndrome or not — are also more likely to have structural heart abnormalities.

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