The history of surgery for esophageal atresia / J Pediatr Surg / 2020 Mar

6 May 2020
2020 Mar 21. pii: S0022-3468(20)30199-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2020.03.003.


Until the successful repair of esophageal atresia (EA) and distal tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) in 1941 by Cameron Haight of Ann Arbor, MI, every infant operated upon for this anomaly died within days and often hours of surgery. A key step was the posterior extrapleural approach to the mediastinum pioneered by Charles Mixter of Boston in 1929 that gave direct exposure of the anomaly without entering the pleural cavity and collapsing the lung. From 1936 to 1939 Thomas Lanman, also of Boston, made five unsuccessful attempts at primary repair of EA. His experience established the basic principles of early radiological diagnosis and prompt surgical intervention to minimize the risks of aspiration pneumonia, dehydration, and inanition. In 1939 N. Logan Leven of Minneapolis and William Ladd of Boston independently had the first long-term survivors of EA with a series of operations to construct skin-lined tubes on the anterior chest wall that connected an esophagostomy to a gastrostomy. Haight first tried primary repair in 1939, finally succeeding in his fourth case in March 1941. In their publications Lanman (1940), Haight (1943 and 1944), and Ladd (1944 and 1947) presented case-by-case chronologies. The evolution of surgical management thus can be traced from a fatal condition to one where survival became the expected outcome. History recognizes Haight for his work with EA, not only for its first successful primary repair, but also his lifelong dedication to its surgical management.

KEYWORDS:  Esophageal atresia; History of pediatric surgery; History of surgery

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