Fetal MRI improves diagnostic accuracy in patients referred to a fetal center for suspected esophageal atresia

J Pediatr Surg. 2014 May;49(5):712-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2014.02.053. Epub 2014 Feb 22.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe prenatal imaging characteristics and outcomes of fetuses with suspected esophageal atresia (EA) in order to improve prenatal diagnosis, counseling, and management.

Methods: The medical records of all patients referred to our multidisciplinary fetal center for suspected EA from January 2003 to April 2013 were reviewed retrospectively.

Results: Thirty-three patients were referred with a prenatal diagnosis of possible EA. Following fetal center evaluation with MRI, EA was deemed unlikely in 6 (18%) fetuses. Of 27 fetuses in whom EA could not be excluded, EA was confirmed postnatally in 15 (56%), excluded in 7 (26%), and unconfirmed in 5 (3 fetal losses; 2 lost to follow-up). Imaging characteristics on fetal MRI associated with the highest positive predictive values (PPV) were an esophageal pouch (100%) and a small stomach (75%). The finding of polyhydramnios had high sensitivity (93%) but low specificity (31%) and PPV (61%) for a diagnosis of EA.

Conclusion: Prenatal imaging and fetal center evaluation correctly identify the presence or absence of esophageal atresia in 78% of patients referred on suspicion of this condition. The presence of an esophageal pouch on fetal MRI has significant predictive value for EA. These data may assist with evidence-based prenatal family counseling.

Keywords: Esophageal atresia; Fetal MRI; Prenatal diagnosis; Tracheoesophageal fistula.

MeSH terms

  • Counseling
  • Esophageal Atresia / diagnosis*
  • Esophagus / diagnostic imaging
  • Esophagus / pathology
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Polyhydramnios / diagnosis
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stomach / diagnostic imaging
  • Stomach / pathology
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal