What are gastroschisis and omphalocele?

Also known as: abdominal wall defects, ventral body wall defects

Gastroschisis and omphalocele are both part of a relatively uncommon group of birth defects (abdominal wall defects) that involve failure of the abdominal wall to form properly. The baby is born with the intestines and other organs such as the stomach and the liver outside the baby passing through an opening or hole in the abdominal wall.

In most cases of gastroschisis, the hole is just to the right of the navel and the uncovered  intestines and other organs protrude it and sit uncovered on the abdominal wall. Frequently the bowel is thickened and scarred by contact with the amniotic fluid before birth. The cause of this defect is unknown, but babies usually do not have any other birth defects. While it may take a long time for the babies to feed normally, these children usually have no long term problems.

With omphaloceles, the abdomen is too small to hold all the abdominal organs and they protrude through the base of the umbilical cord, covered by a thin membrane which actually protects the intestines from the amniotic fluid. Omphaloceles are associated with a number of other congenital malformations, particularly cardiac defects, and quite frequently have chromosomal abnormalities.

Reviewed by: Cathy Anne Burnweit, MD

This page was last updated on: 1/29/2019 3:21:13 PM

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