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What is OA/TOF?

OA/TOF stands for Oesophageal Atresia (OA) and Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula (TOF). 

OA/TOF are rare congenital conditions of the oesophagus (food pipe) and/or trachea (airway) that affects 1 in every 3,500 people.

An Introduction to OA/TOF

Oesophageal Atresia (OA)

If the separation of one tube into two is disturbed, one of the tubes develops as a blind end rather than a complete tube. 

This is called an atresia, and when atresia affects the oesophagus it is called oesophageal atresia (OA).

Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula (TOF)

Another pattern of abnormal development is a connection between the oesophagus and trachea. 

This connection is called a fistula or tracheo-oesophageal fistula (TOF).

It is probably easiest to begin this explanation with an outline of the way the human body starts to develop. Most people do not realise how early in pregnancy the body structures begin to be assembled.

The oesophagus (food-pipe or gullet) is the tube that allows us to swallow food and drink.

It passes from the back of our mouth, through the chest, to the stomach in the abdomen below the diaphragm. The oesophagus develops around ten weeks after conception. At this stage, the embryo is less than one inch in length.

The trachea or windpipe provides a separate tube through which air passes between our mouth/nose and lungs.

The oesophagus and the trachea form as a single structure. During normal development this structure divides into two, with the part at the front forming the trachea and the part at the back forming the oesophagus.

Most babies born with both OA and TOF have the lower part of the oesophagus joined to the windpipe (lower pouch fistula).

Less commonly, other configurations occur.


Would you like more information?

Published by TOFS, The TOF Book is the must have guide for anyone affected by, or caring for someone with OA/TOF.

With contributions from medical experts, the TOF Book contains chapters on every aspect of OA/TOF and VACTERL condition, from infancy to adulthood all presented in an easy-to-understand format.