Anastomotic strictures after esophageal atresia repair: Incidence, investigations, and management, including treatment of refractory and recurrent strictures

Renato Tambucci, Giulia Angelino, Paola De Angelis, Filippo Torroni, Tamara Caldaro, Valerio Balassone, Anna Chiara Contini, Erminia Romeo, Francesca Rea, Simona Faraci, Giovanni Federici di Abriola, Luigi Dall'Oglio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Improved surgical techniques, as well as preoperative and postoperative care, have dramatically changed survival of children with esophageal atresia (EA) over the last decades. Nowadays, we are increasingly seeing EA patients experiencing significant short- and long-term gastrointestinal morbidities. Anastomotic stricture (AS) is the most common complication following operative repair. An esophageal stricture is defined as an intrinsic luminal narrowing in a clinically symptomatic patient, but no symptoms are sensitive or specific enough to diagnose an AS. This review aims to provide a comprehensive view of AS in EA children. Given the lack of evidence-based data, we critically analyzed significant studies on children and adults, including comments on benign strictures with other etiologies. Despite there is no consensus about the goal of the luminal diameter based on the patient's age, esophageal contrast study, and/or endoscopy are recommended to assess the degree of the narrowing. A high variability in incidence of ASs is reported in literature, depending on different definitions of AS and on a great number of pre-, intra-, and postoperative risk factor influencing the anastomosis outcome. The presence of a long gap between the two esophageal ends, with consequent anastomotic tension, is determinant for stricture formation and its response to treatment. The cornerstone of treatment is endoscopic dilation, whose primary aims are to achieve symptom relief, allow age-appropriate capacity for oral feeding, and reduce the risk of pulmonary aspiration. No clear advantage of either balloon or bougie dilator has been demonstrated; therefore, the choice is based on operator experience and comfort with the equipment. Retrospective evidences suggest that selective dilatations (performed only in symptomatic patients) results in significantly less number of dilatation sessions than routine dilations (performed to prevent symptoms) with equal long-term outcomes. The response to dilation treatment is variable, and some patients may experience recurrent and refractory ASs. Adjunctive treatments have been used, including local injection of steroids, topical application of mitomycin C, and esophageal stenting, but long-term studies are needed to prove their efficacy and safety. Stricture resection or esophageal replacement with an interposition graft remains options for AS refractory to conservative treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120
JournalFrontiers in Pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - May 29 2017


  • Adjuvant treatments
  • Anastomotic strictures
  • Balloon dilators
  • Bougie dilators
  • Esophageal atresia
  • Esophageal dilation
  • Esophageal stenting
  • Refractory and recurrent strictures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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