A tracheo-esophageal fistula is an abnormal pathway between the trachea (windpipe) and the esophagus (tube that connects the throat with the stomach). Patients with cancer of the esophagus may develop a tracheo-esophageal fistula if the tumor grows from the esophagus into the trachea. The disorder is serious because things that are swallowed enter the lungs and cause pneumonia.
Signs of the condition include:
- Cough, especially during eating or drinking
Treatment may involve:
- Surgery may be needed to close off the fistula in babies.
- Esophageal stents (expandable tubes) can be placed through the tumor. As the stents expand, they block off the fistula and open up the tumor. This allows food to pass beyond the tumor to the stomach without going into the lungs.
- Tissue glues can be placed in the pathway during upper GI endoscopy.