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Tracheoesophageal Fistula Differential Diagnoses

  • Author: Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC; Chief Editor: Julian Katz, MD  more...
Updated: Jan 03, 2016

Diagnostic Considerations

Pharyngeal pseudodiverticulum should be considered in the differential diagnosis of TEFs. This may occur secondary to traumatic perforation of the posterior pharynx from finger insertion into the oropharynx during labor or following vigorous efforts at tube insertion during resuscitation of the newborn. These patients develop pneumomediastinum.

A very rare cause of neonatal respiratory distress is tracheal agenesis, which is always fatal within hours of birth. In tracheal agenesis, a nasogastric tube can be inserted easily.

Zenker diverticulum is also known as posterior hypopharyngeal pouch and pharyngoesophageal diverticulum. This condition involves herniation of mucosa and submucosa through the oblique and transverse fibers of the cricopharyngeus muscle. The blind pouch develops at the pharyngoesophageal junction at the level of the C5-C6 disc space. The pouch is the result of hyperdynamic cricopharyngeal sphincter contraction associated with an abnormality of cricopharyngeal relaxation.

Differential Diagnoses

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC Professor and Head, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba; Site Director, Respiratory Medicine, St Boniface General Hospital

Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, American Thoracic Society, Canadian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Royal Society of Medicine, Society of Critical Care Medicine, World Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Donald Duerksen, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology, University of Manitoba, Canada

Donald Duerksen, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Noel Williams, MD, FRCPC FACP, MACG, Professor Emeritus, Department of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Noel Williams, MD, FRCPC is a member of the following medical societies: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Julian Katz, MD Clinical Professor of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine

Julian Katz, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, American Geriatrics Society, American Medical Association, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, American Trauma Society, Association of American Medical Colleges, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Marco G Patti, MD Professor of Surgery, Director, Center for Esophageal Diseases, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

Marco G Patti, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Surgical Association, American College of Surgeons, American Gastroenterological Association, American Medical Association, Association for Academic Surgery, Pan-Pacific Surgical Association, Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Southwestern Surgical Congress, Western Surgical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Tracheoesophageal fistula. During development of respiratory and digestive systems, a single primitive tube develops lung bud and tracheoesophageal septum forms by 4-6 weeks of gestational age. The septum separates the foregut and tracheobronchial tree by 6 weeks of gestational age.
Tracheoesophageal fistula. The cuff of endobronchial causes circumferential ischemia and injury to the trachea; the erosion leads to formation of tracheoesophageal fistula.
Tracheoesophageal fistula. H-type of tracheoesophageal fistula.
Tracheoesophageal fistula. Esophageal atresia with distal tracheoesophageal fistula.
Tracheoesophageal fistula. Isolated esophageal atresia without tracheoesophageal fistula.
Table. Classification of Congenital Tracheoesophageal Fistulas and Esophageal Atresia
Anatomic Characteristics Percent of Cases
Esophageal atresia with distal TEF 87
Isolated esophageal atresia without TEF 8
Isolated TEF 4
Esophageal atresia with proximal TEF 1
Esophageal atresia with proximal and distal TEF 1
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