Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia

Also known as: CDH.

What is congenital diaphragmatic hernia?

The diaphragm is the muscular boundary that helps separate the contents of the chest from those of the abdomen. When there’s a hole within the diaphragm of a growing fetus while it’s in the mother’s womb, this is known as a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH. This birth defect is large enough for organs to poke through the hole in the diaphragm and into the chest, which leads to other complications.

What causes congenital diaphragmatic hernia?

Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes congenital diaphragmatic hernia. It appears to have a genetic component and may run in families.

What are the symptoms of congenital diaphragmatic hernia?

The main problems with congenital diaphragmatic hernia stem from the abdominal organs entering the chest. This prevents the lungs from growing properly, which can cause breathing problems; and increased pressure within the blood vessels supplying the lungs, a condition called pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension can place undue strain on the heart. The complications can be life-threatening. In addition, some infants with CDH also have feeding problems and acid reflux due to their breathing issues.

What are congenital diaphragmatic hernia care options?

Surgery to repair the congenital diaphragmatic hernia is the primary treatment option. This may even occur while the fetus is still in the mother’s womb. Other devices, such as ventilators and heart lung machines may be needed to help as the baby recovers from the condition.


Reviewed by: Shifra A Koyfman, MD

This page was last updated on: 4/4/2018 2:28:09 PM


Dr. David Drossner, a pediatric cardiologist with The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, discusses how congenital heart disease (CHD) is identifying prenatally.

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