What is VACTERL association?

VACTERL or VATER association is an acronym used to describe a series of characteristics which have been found to occur together.

V stands for vertebrae, which are the bones of the spinal column.

A stands for imperforate anus or anal atresia, or an anus that does not open to the outside of the body.

C is added to the acronym to denote cardiac anomalies.

TE stands for tracheoesophageal fistula, which is a persistent connection between the trachea (the windpipe) and the esophagus (the feeding tube).

R stands for renal or kidney anomalies.

L is often added to stand for limb anomalies (radial agenesis).

Babies who have been diagnosed as having VACTERL association usually have at least three or more of these individual anomalies. There is a wide range of manifestation of VACTERL association so that the exact incidence within the population is not exactly known, but has been estimated to occur in one in 10,000 to 40,000 newborns.