BACKGROUND/AIMS Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID) affect 15%-20% of the general pediatric and adult population. Animal models suggest that a neonatal stress such as invasive procedures and maternal separation could be responsible for visceral hypersensitivity and FGID. We tested the hypothesis that congenital esophageal atresia (EA), a condition corrected during the neonatal period and associated with multiple stresses, is a clinically significant risk factor for the development of FGID later in life. We postulated that, to be clinically significant, the effect of neonatal stress on the incidence of FGID should be as strong as that of enteric infections in the development of irritable bowel syndrome in children. METHODS Subjects with EA and healthy controls were enrolled in this multicenter cohort study. Gastrointestinal symptoms were assessed by a questionnaire and FGID was diagnosed using the Rome III criteria. RESULTS Fifty-three children (25 girls; median age, 12 years) with EA were compared to 72 age- and sex-matched controls. Although 11 children with EA (21%) had a FGID diagnosis versus 8 controls (11%), this difference was not significant (χ(2) = 2.20, P > 0.05). In subjects with EA, the presence of associated malformations, the occurrence of complications during the first month, and the length of hospital stay > 30 days did not influence the incidence of FGID. Chronic abdominal pain was present in 38% of subjects with EA versus 25% of controls (P > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS Neonatal stress secondary to surgical correction of EA is not a clinically significant risk factor for the development of FGID in childhood.