Surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital have long sought a better solution for long-gap esophageal atresia, a rare birth defect in which part of the esophagus is missing.

The current state-of-the art operation, called the Foker process, uses sutures anchored to children’s backs to gradually pull the unjoined ends of esophagus until they’re long enough to be stitched together.

To keep the esophagus from tearing, children must be paralyzed in a medically induced coma, on mechanical ventilation, for one to four weeks.

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