Fixed the gap, solved the problem? Eating skills in esophageal atresia patients at 3 years

Francesca Bevilacqua, Benedetta Ragni, Andrea Conforti, Simonetta Gentile, Antonio Zaccara, Andrea Dotta, Pietro Bagolan, Lucia Aite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although eating problems have been described as long-term morbidities of esophageal atresia (EA), there have been few studies exploring eating outcomes in children born with EA as primary aim. Parents of children operated on for EA in our Institution from January 2012 to January 2016, answered a telephone structured interview developed specifically to conduct the present study, assessing eating skills at 3 years of age. Clinical data were collected from children's medical records. Parents (45 mothers and 6 fathers) of 51 children (male = 34; female = 17) with a median age of 3.5 years form the object of the study. Considering eating problems, parents reported that 23 children (45%) still have episodes of choking during meals at 3 years of age, 9 (45%) of these have more than one episode a week, and 19 parents (39%) reported higher levels of anxiety during mealtimes. Forty-four children (86%) were described by their parents as able to eat alone, 32 (65%) accepted all food textures and 45 (90%) was described as curious about food (3 years). Forty-three (86%) parents let their children eat with other people. Correlations showed that weaning age was significantly associated with number of dilatations (rs = 0.35, P = 0.012), days of mechanical ventilation (rs = 0.40, P < 0.001), and presence of gastrostomy tube at discharge (rs = 0.45, P < 0.001). Chewing age resulted associated with number of dilatations (rs = 0.34, P < 0.01) and days of mechanical ventilation (rs = 0.38, P < 0.01). Presence of choking episodes was associated with curiosity about food (rs = 0.29, P < 0.05), while frequent choking episodes were associated with higher parental anxiety during mealtimes (rs = 0.45, P < 0.05). In order to prevent delay in the achievement of eating developmental milestones in children operated on of EA, we advocate a dedicated preventive intervention from birth to follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdoz102
JournalDiseases of the Esophagus
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 7 2020


  • eating difficulties
  • esophageal atresia
  • feeding difficulties
  • parental anxiety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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