Correction of the full spectrum of esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) remains controversial. Circular myotomy and other lengthening procedures have shown promise to reduce tension when a relatively wide gap exists between esophageal segments; nevertheless a relatively high complication rate persists. We believe anastomotic tension is commonly found with repair of this anomaly. Therefore, the construction of the anastomosis will be a primary determinant of success. Twenty-four infants with TEF were admitted, 12 (50%) weighing 2.5 kg, nine (37%) 1.8 to 2.5 kg, and three (13%) 1.8 kg. All underwent gastrostomy and end-to-end single-layer anastomosis. Gaps of up to 4.5 cm were encountered, and in one case a cervical incision was necessary for mobilization of the upper pouch. For eight patients (33%) the gap was at least 2.5 cm and significant anastomatic tension was generated. For the series, there were no anastomotic leaks (all confirmed by barium swallow), reoperations, or surgical complications (there were two late, unrelated deaths). Prophylactic dilation was routinely performed 6 weeks and 3 months postoperatively. Subsequently, seven of the 24 (29%) required additional (one to five) dilatations but are now asymptomatic at least 2 years later. Follow-up for the entire series is 5 months to 5 years. Three infants (13%) required fundoplication for reflux without stricture and two infants (8%) an aortopexy. For successful esophageal anastomosis we consider the following technical points important: (1) no-touch technique to minimize tissue damage, (2) generous (5 to 7 mm) full-thickness suture depth, (3) fine (6/0) monofilament suture to reduce tissue reactivity, and (4) in cases of significant tension, the sutures are preplaced and used or provide traction to eliminate tension during tying. Tension is often unavoidable in TEF, yet a carefully constructed anastomosis will withstand this stress. This approach provides results at least as satisfactory as the reported experience with a variety of techniques.
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