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ORIGINAL ARTICLE Table of Contents   
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 149-152
Laparoscopic fundoplication after oesophageal atresia repair

1 Department of Pediatric Surgery and Urology, Institute for Maternal and Child Health - IRCCS “Burlo Garofolo,” Trieste, Italy
2 Pediatric Surgery Division, Women's and Children's Health Department, University of Padua, Italy

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Date of Submission20-Feb-2021
Date of Decision02-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance13-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication23-Jun-2022


Background: Esophageal atresia (EA) is a rare congenital malformation. A high incidence of GER unresponsive to medical management is noted with EA. Literature suggests that complications from GER can persist in adulthood. In paediatric age, laparoscopic treatment is a valid option even if recurrence rate is not negligible. Aims and Objectives: To evaluate our experience with gastro-esophageal reflux (GER) treatment after esophageal atresia (EA) repair. Materials and Methods: We retrospectively analysed 29 consecutive patients treated for EA at birth and studied for GER at our Institute in a period of 11 years. Results: 24/29 (82,7%) cases had symptoms of reflux, 17/29 (58,6%) cases were treated with laparoscopic fundoplication (LF). Three infants were younger than 6 months and had apparent life threatening events (ALTE) condition as principal indication for surgery. No intra-operative complications occurred. 3/17 LF had open surgical conversion due to technical problems. 2/17 cases required a second operation. At the last follow-up: (1) 6/17 (35,3%) of patients healed after the last operation, (2) 8/17 (47,1%) have GER improvement (four still in medical treatment), (3) 2/17 (11,8%) have persistent GER, (4) 1/17 (5,9%) died for causes not related to antireflux surgery. Conclusions: According to literature and to our retrospective analysis, LF for GER after EA repair is feasible, even if recurrence risk is not negligible. Infants less than 6 months old with associated conditions (malformations, gastrostomy/jejunostomy) seem to have a higher failure rate with a greater risk of conversion. Longer follow-up and multicenter experiences would guarantee an adequate surveillance for patients with EA.

Keywords: Oesophageal atresia, gastro-oesophageal reflux, laparoscopic fundoplication

How to cite this article:
Scarpa MG, Codrich D, Duci M, Olenik D, Schleef J. Laparoscopic fundoplication after oesophageal atresia repair. Afr J Paediatr Surg 2022;19:149-52

How to cite this URL:
Scarpa MG, Codrich D, Duci M, Olenik D, Schleef J. Laparoscopic fundoplication after oesophageal atresia repair. Afr J Paediatr Surg [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Jul 5];19:149-52. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Oesophageal atresia (EA) is a rare congenital malformation with significant long-term morbidity. The most common complication is gastro-oesophageal reflux (GER) due to poor oesophageal motility, inadequate acid clearance, shortening of the oesophagus and abnormal lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) pressure.[1] A clinical improvement after school age has been reported.[2] The actual prevalence of GER ranges from 25% to 75% of the cases.[3],[4] Children with EA have a high incidence of symptomatic GER unresponsive to medical therapy.[5] More than 40% of them require surgical correction[6] and the GER late recurrence rate after fundoplication procedures is high.[7] The objective of this study was to confirm the feasibility of laparoscopic fundoplication (LF) after EA repair and the medium-term outcomes.

   Materials and Methods Top

This study was based on the medical records of all consecutive patients treated for EA and studied for GER from January 2004 to September 2015 in a single centre.

During the same period, 31 patients were operated for EA.

GER studies included: Contrast X-ray, endoscopy, 24-h impendance pH monitoring.

The standard follow-up consisted of clinical evaluations 1 and 3 months after EA repair, contrast X-ray studies at 6 and 18 months and endoscopic procedures associated with oesophageal 24-h impendance–pH monitoring, when possible, at 12 and 24 months, clinical evaluations and/or repetition of the examinations once a year in persistent GER cases.

The medical records of all patients were reviewed, and the demographic and surgical data were analysed.

The institutional policy during the study period indicated a surgical approach in case of failure of a well-conducted medical treatment based on posture, diet and appropriate antacid and/or prokinetic medication. Standard surgical treatment consisted of a complete or partial LF. A visit or a telephone call represented the last follow-up. The outcomes considered were as follows:

  1. Resolution of GER
  2. Improvement of GER symptoms without medical therapy
  3. Improvement of GER symptoms with medical therapy
  4. Current GER requiring redo-operation [Table 1].
Table 1: Follow-up data related to the last visit or telephone call

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Statistical analysis was performed using the Statistical Package SAS 9.4 (SAS Institute, Inc., Carey, NC, USA). For the categorical variables, Fisher's exact analysis was used. For the continuous variables, the Wilcoxon test was applied. Two-sided P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

   Results Top

From January 2004 to September 2015, 29 patients were managed for EA and studied for GER. Twenty-eight new-borns had type III (Gross type C) atresia, three of which were long-gap form and one had type I (Gross type A) long-gap atresia.

Both X-ray contrast and endoscopic studies were performed in 25 cases; X-ray contrast studies, endoscopic procedures and oesophageal 24-h impedance–pH monitoring studies were performed in 14 cases.

Eighteen children presented with associated conditions such as prematurity, other malformations and ventriculoperitoneal shunt. Twenty-five belonged to Group I according to the Spitz risk classification (patients' birth weight was >1500 g without major cardiac defect) and 4 belonged to Group II (birth weight <1500 g). Twelve had a gastrostomy (ten cases) or a jejunostomy (two cases). Twenty-four patients (12 males and 12 females) presented with symptomatic GER (82.7%) and 17 cases (5 males and 12 females) were surgically treated (58.6%). All long gap EA needed surgical therapy except one case (Gross C, III type). However, the need for fundoplication did not depend on the type of AE (P = 0.621). LF was the initial approach in all patients and skilled surgeons performed the procedure at a median patient age of 37.3 months (range 4–204 months). Three infants were younger than 6 months (weight between 4 and 8 kg) with apparent life-threatening events (ALTE) as the principal indication for surgery. In all cases, an evaluation was performed to exclude other causes of respiratory difficulties than GER. The surgical treatment of six GER patients was a Nissen complete fundoplication and the other 11 were treated with Thal or Toupet partial fundoplication. The rate of gastrostomy performed at the time of EA repair (66.6% and 45.4%, respectively) did not influence the type of fundoplication (P = 0.59).

Three (17.6%) laparoscopic procedures were converted to open surgery due to technical problems: Two were low weight infants and all three patients had gastrostomy or jejunostomy. In one case, hepatomegaly was the reason for conversion; in the second, it was due to anaesthesiologic difficulties with poor compliance to pneumoperitoneum; in the third, the reason was the presence of gastrostomy and a small stomach. No intraoperative complications occurred.

All patients were fed after 6 h from the surgical procedure, and they were discharged from the hospital between the 3rd and 12th day after the operation: The longest hospital stay was not related to surgery.

Two (11.8%) patients with associated malformations required a second fundoplication: One was a low-weight infant (age <6 months) with ALTE, and the presence of jejunostomy at the time of surgery. A summary of our cases is reported in [Table 2].
Table 2: Summary of our cases

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The median follow-up was 80 months (range 1–140 months). In summary, 82.3% of patients had a good outcome after surgical treatment (healing or improvement of the symptoms) [Figure 1] and [Figure 2].
Figure 1: Outcomes after fundoplication

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Figure 2: Fundoplication success after primary surgery

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   Discussion Top

Recent studies have reported a high percentage of GER complications in adulthood causing GER disease (GERD) in patients operated for EA. In a Finnish adult study published in 2010, the occurrence of symptomatic GER was 34% and the occurrence of dysphagia was 85% compared with 8% and 2%, respectively among the general population.[8] According to Rintala and Pakarinen,[9] approximately one fifth of adult EA patients develop epithelial metaplastic changes, one-third of these had intestinal metaplasia (Barrett's oesophagus). It generally occurs at a much younger age than in the general population.[10] In the long term, these patients have a 50-fold higher risk of carcinoma than the control population.[11]

According to Tovar and Fragoso,[6] in our experience, more than 40% of EA patients are refractory to medication and require surgical correction. In a retrospective study published in 2010 by the Great Ormond Street Hospital group, the laparoscopic GER operation is considered an appropriate treatment for EA with GER. It is feasible and effective even in children under 1 year old if performed by skilled laparoscopic surgeons.[12] However, other authors have reported increased fundoplication failure rates in small children.[13] In our experience, three cases (17.6%) were converted to open surgery: In all three cases, a gastrostomy or a jejunostomy was present at the time of surgery.

Kubiak et al. observed a high incidence of failure and repeated fundoplication in infants with associated anomalies, particularly those with EA. Almost half of these patients showed no improvement of their symptoms after fundoplication.[14] Tovar and Fragoso[11] reported surgery failure rate in 30% of cases.

Regarding the type of LF, Snyder et al. reported that a complete wrap (Nissen) is inappropriate for GER associated with EA. Severe oesophageal dysmotility may contribute to poor passage of food through the gastro-oesophageal junction, especially against the increased resistance provided by a complete wrap, so partial fundoplication could theoretically be more attractive, with a minor risk of prolonged dysphagia.[1] Although it is well known that Thal method can be considered advantageous because of maintenance of the LES and low anatomical dissection, in our experience, there was no statistical difference in failure of fundoplication between the two groups. However, it is important to bear in mind that our case series had a small sample size.

A clinical GER improvement after school age and adolescence has been reported.[2] However, serious respiratory disorders related to GER are a strong indication for surgery even in very small babies.[15] In a systematic review in 2014, Sload and Brigger[16] suggested that antireflux surgery is an effective and safe treatment for severe reflux-related airway disease.

In our experience, one of the six Nissen operations required a conversion to open surgery and another one failed and required a redo-procedure: In both cases the patients were small infants with associated conditions. One had a very short oesophagus due to a long-gap Gross C, III type EA repair [Table 2]. Finally, our GER improvement rate after surgery was acceptable. However, complete control of symptoms was not achieved, especially in patients for whom the indication of fundoplication was ALTE or respiratory symptoms. This finding might be explained by the multifactorial aetiology of ALTE in AE, including GERD, tracheomalacia and greater reactivity of the respiratory tract.[17] The main limitation of this study is the small sample of patients. Its strength is the fact that these patients were consecutively included in a specific follow-up schedule. A multicentre longitudinal prospective follow-up might help to define the most appropriate treatment in such cases since AE patients can manifest lifelong symptoms.

   Conclusion Top

Laparoscopic treatment for GER after EA repair is efficient and feasible. According to the literature, the risk of relapses after antireflux surgery is higher for low-weight infants compared with the general population. Both the risk of conversion to open surgery and the rate of failure are increased in long-gap cases and the presence of associated conditions (malformations and gastrostomy/jejunostomy). Morbidity for EA patients is relevant and requires clinical assessment in adolescence and adulthood.[18],[19] A careful follow-up and further multicentre studies will be necessary to understand the outcomes of patients affected by GERD after EA repair.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Snyder CL, Ramachandran V, Kennedy AP, Gittes GK, Ashcraft KW, Holder TM. Efficacy of partial wrap fundoplication for gastroesophageal reflux after repair of esophageal atresia. J Pediatr Surg 1997;32:1089-91.  Back to cited text no. 1
Somppi E, Tammela O, Ruuska T, Rahnasto J, Laitinen J, Turjanmaa V, et al. Outcome of patients operated on for esophageal atresia: 30 years' experience. J Pediatr Surg 1998;33:1341-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Lima M, Ruggeri G, Domini M, et al. The gastroesophageal reflux secondary to malformations. In: Esposito C, Montupet P, Rothenberg S (eds): Gastroesophageal reflux in infants and children. Germany: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2004, pp: 27-31.  Back to cited text no. 3
Gottrand F, Sfeir R, Coopman S et al. Atrésie de l'oesophage: devenir des enfants opérés (Outcome of children with repaired oesophageal atresia). Archives de Pèdiatrie 2008; 15: 1837-42.  Back to cited text no. 4
Curci M, Dibbins A. Gastroesophageal reflux in children: an underrated disease. Am J Surg 1982;143:413-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Tovar JA, Fragoso AC. Gastroesophageal reflux after repair of esophageal atresia. Eur J Pediatr Surg 2013;23:175-81.  Back to cited text no. 6
Lindahl H, Rintala R, Louhimo I. Failure of the Nissen fundoplication to control gastroesophageal reflux in esophageal atresia patients. J Pediatr Surg 1989;24:985-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
Sistonen SJ, Koivusalo A, Nieminen U, Lindahl H, Lohi J, Kero M, et al. Esophageal morbidity and function in adults with repaired esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula: a population-based long-term follow-up. Ann Surg 2010;251:1167-73.  Back to cited text no. 8
Rintala RJ, Pakarinen MP. Long-term outcome of esophageal anastomosis. Eur J Pediatr Surg 2013;23:219-25.  Back to cited text no. 9
Vergouwe FW, IJsselstijn H, Wijnen RM, Bruno MJ, Spaander MC. Screening and Surveillance in Esophageal Atresia Patients: Current Knowledge and Future Perspectives. Eur J Pediatr Surg 2015;25:345-52.  Back to cited text no. 10
Tovar JA, Fragoso AC. Anti-reflux surgery for patients with esophageal atresia. Dis Esophagus 2013;26:401-4.  Back to cited text no. 11
Shariff F, Kiely E, Curry J, Drake D, Pierro A, McHoney M. Outcome after laparoscopic fundoplication in children under 1 year. J Laparoendosc Adv Surg Tech A 2010;20:661-4.  Back to cited text no. 12
Ponsky TA, Rothenberg SS. Minimally invasive surgery in infants less than 5 kg: experience of 649 cases. Surg Endosc 2008;22:2214-9.  Back to cited text no. 13
Kubiak R, Spitz L, Kiely EM, Drake D, Pierro A. Effectiveness of fundoplication in early infancy. J Pediatr Surg 1999;34:295-9.  Back to cited text no. 14
Mattioli G, Caffarena PE, Battistini E, Fregonese B, Barabino A, Jasonni V. [Gastroesophageal reflux disease and respiratory disease]. Ann Ital Chir 1995;66:629-35.  Back to cited text no. 15
Sload RL, Brigger MT. Surgery for reflux induced airway disease: a systematic review. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 2014;78:1211-5.  Back to cited text no. 16
Koivusalo AI, Rintala RJ, Pakarinen MP. Outcomes of fundoplication in oesophageal atresia associated gastrooesophageal reflux disease. J Pediatr Surg 2018;53:230-3.  Back to cited text no. 17
Taylor AC, Breen KJ, Auldist A, Catto-Smith A, Clarnette T, Crameri J, et al. Gastroesophageal reflux and related pathology in adults who were born with esophageal atresia: A long-term follow-up study. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2007;5:702-6.  Back to cited text no. 18
Connor MJ, Springford LR, Kapetanakis VV, Giuliani S. Esophageal atresia and transitional care--step 1: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature to define the prevalence of chronic long-term problems. Am J Surg 2015;209:747-59.  Back to cited text no. 19

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Maria-Grazia Scarpa
Department of Pediatric Surgery and Urology, Institute for Maternal and Child Health, IRCCS, “Burlo Garofolo”, Via dell'Istria 65/1, Trieste 34137
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ajps.AJPS_25_21

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