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Disease Profile

Tracheoesophageal fistula

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

Tracheoesophageal fistula with or without esophageal atresia; TE fistula; TEF


Tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) is a life-threatening condition in which there is an abnormal connection between the esophagus and trachea (windpipe). The esophagus and trachea run next to each other through the chest cavity. The esophagus carries food and saliva to the stomach, while the trachea carries air to the lungs. TEF can lead to severe and fatal lung complications. Saliva and gastric secretions can be aspirated into the lungs, and normal swallowing and digestion of food cannot occur.[1] Most affected people are diagnosed immediately after birth or during infancy. Symptoms may include frothy bubbles of mucus in the mouth and nose; episodes of coughing and choking; and worsening symptoms during feeding. TEF may be isolated, or it may occur with other physical or developmental abnormalities (most commonly, esophageal atresia). In many cases the cause is unknown but it has been associated with some chromosome disorders. In some cases it may be acquired later in life after a cancer, infection, ruptured diverticula, or trauma. Treatment includes immediate surgical repair with survival rates of almost 100%.[2]


This table lists symptoms that people with this disease may have. For most diseases, symptoms will vary from person to person. People with the same disease may not have all the symptoms listed. This information comes from a database called the Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) . The HPO collects information on symptoms that have been described in medical resources. The HPO is updated regularly. Use the HPO ID to access more in-depth information about a symptom.

Medical Terms Other Names
Learn More:
Percent of people who have these symptoms is not available through HPO
Esophageal atresia
Birth defect in which part of esophagus did not develop
Tracheoesophageal fistula


Support and advocacy groups can help you connect with other patients and families, and they can provide valuable services. Many develop patient-centered information and are the driving force behind research for better treatments and possible cures. They can direct you to research, resources, and services. Many organizations also have experts who serve as medical advisors or provide lists of doctors/clinics. Visit the group’s website or contact them to learn about the services they offer. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement by GARD.

Organizations Supporting this Disease

    Learn more

    These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

    Where to Start

    • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
    • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Tracheoesophageal fistula. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
    • The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a report for patients and families about this condition. NORD is a patient advocacy organization for individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them.

      In-Depth Information

      • GeneReviews provides current, expert-authored, peer-reviewed, full-text articles describing the application of genetic testing to the diagnosis, management, and genetic counseling of patients with specific inherited conditions.
      • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
      • The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
      • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
      • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Tracheoesophageal fistula. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


        1. Tracheoesophageal fistula repair series. MedlinePlus. January 31, 2014; https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/presentations/100103_1.htm.
        2. Sat Sharm. Tracheoesophageal Fistula. Medscape. October 29, 2014; https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/186735-overview.
        3. Esophageal atresia/tracheoesophageal fistula. Genetics Home Reference. August, 2012; https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/esophageal-atresia-tracheoesophageal-fistula.

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