VACTERL (or VATER as physicians refer to it sometimes) is an acronym, not a disease or a syndrome.
It is used to describe the types of anomalies (physical birth defects) children may have when they are born.
Some children have the full spectrum of VACTERL, but a child with more than two problems in
any combination may be recognized as fitting the VACTERL Association. If a physician sees at least two anomalies that
fit within the VACTERL Association, he/she knows to look for other related problems. This is important because problems
that are identified early can be treated with surgery, medicine, or therapies before the child has major complications.
A child with VACTERL Association may be seen by several specialists and have several test done.
While the majority of children with VACTERL Association have normal intelligence, they may
have delayed growth and development in the early years. Examples of some of the anomalies that may occur are:
(V) - Vertebrae problems - abnormally formed vertebrae,
tethered spinal cord, extra ribs, missing
(A) - Anal anomalies/rectal problems - no anal opening
(C) - Cardiac problems - minor to massive heart
(T) - Trachea (windpipe) - improper connections
between trachea and esophagus.
(E) - Esophagus - part of the esophagus connecting the
mouth and stomach is missing.
(R) - Renal (kidney) - abnormal kidney(s).
(L) - Limb - various hand, feet and leg problems, missing
bone structures are common.
(S) - Single artery umbilical cord - the umbilical cord has
one artery and one vein instead of two arteries
The specific needs of each child who has VACTERL vary from child to child, as well as the
severity of the anomalies.