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An omphalocele is a birth defect. It happens when your baby is forming during pregnancy.
In this condition, some of your baby’s abdominal organs poke out (protrude) through an opening in the abdominal muscles. This area is in the umbilical cord. A clear (translucent) membrane covers the organs.
The omphalocele may be small. Only a part of the intestine may stick out. Or it may be large, with most of the abdominal organs being outside the abdomen. These can include the intestine, liver, and spleen.
Your baby’s abdominal cavity may also be too small. This is because it did not fully form in pregnancy.
Doctors don't know what causes this condition.
Your baby’s abdominal organs and muscles just don’t form like they should. Many babies born with this condition also have other health issues.
Your baby’s abdominal organs will poke out through an opening in his or her abdomen.
Your baby’s healthcare provider may spot this issue on an ultrasound in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Your baby may also need an ultrasound of the heart (fetal echocardiogram) before he or she is born. This test looks for heart problems.
After your baby is born, his or her healthcare provider will see the omphalocele during an exam. Your baby may also need an X-ray. This test is done to look for problems with other organs.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Small omphaloceles are often fixed easily. Your baby will need surgery right after birth. In the surgery, your baby’s organs will be put back into his or her abdomen. The surgeon will also close the opening to your baby’s abdominal wall.
If most of your baby’s abdominal organs are affected, he or she will have treatment in stages. Your baby’s treatment may include the following:
Your baby’s abdomen may be small. His or her organs may also be swollen. This can cause your baby to have trouble breathing. Your baby may need a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator). This can help your baby while the swelling goes down and the abdominal cavity grows.
If the protective membrane around your baby’s organs breaks, your baby could get an infection. Also, if an organ is pinched or twisted, it can lose its blood supply. This can harm the organ.
After surgery, your baby may still be at risk for long-term issues. Your baby’s chance for future problems depends on:
Small omphaloceles normally cause no long-term problems.
Babies with damage to the abdominal organs may have long-term problems. Your child may have trouble with digestion, having bowel movements, and infection.
Ask your child's healthcare provider about your child’s outlook. He or she will make a care plan for your baby. You may need to watch your baby’s nutrition, bowel function, and other aspects of your baby’s health.
You’ll learn how to care for your baby once he or she leaves the hospital. If you have any questions, call your baby’s healthcare provider.
If your child doesn’t gain weight or has trouble eating or having bowel movements, call your child’s healthcare provider.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.