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Gastroschisis and Omphaloceles (Abdominal Wall Deformities)

What is Gastroschisis?

Gastroschisis is a deformity we see in the abdominal walls of fetuses. In this case, a hole presents in the muscle and skin of the abdomen (usually to the right of the umbilical cord) and allows organs to come out of the cavity.

What is an Omphalocele?

An omphalocele is another type of deformity in the formation of a fetus’ abdominal wall. Where there should be muscle and skin, there is a protruding sac containing some or most of the child’s abdominal organs.

Testing for Abdominal Wall Deformities

Luckily, abdominal wall deformities like omphaloceles and gastroschisis are typically caught early in pregnancies via ultrasound. This gives healthcare teams valuable time to educate, cover complications, treatments, and weigh the best options forward for the person carrying the fetus. 

Treatment for Gastroschisis

Children with gastroschisis can be born via vaginal or cesarian section, however, they will have to be transferred to Golisano Children’s Hospital of SWFL’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for surgery. The child will receive an IV to get them fluids and make up for any lost by their exposed bowels. A plastic bag will cover the exposed organs to keep them safe while a surgeon evaluates the safest course for returning the organs to the abdomen. Afterward, your care team will help your family schedule follow-up appointments to monitor the health and wellness of your child. 10-15% of children with gastroschisis may go on to have internal atresia, which affects the continuity of the intestine, so it’s essential that you have your child examined.

Treatment for an Omphalocele

Treatment largely depends on the size and severity of a child’s case. More than 50% of children born with an omphalocele have additional deformities in their abdomen, heart, sternum, or diaphragm. Those born with large omphaloceles often have smaller lung sizes, and about a third will have heart problems that impact their long-term health. 

That being said, our team will work with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses all the needs of the mother and their child. Your healthcare provider may recommend a vaginal birth or a cesarian section depending on the size of the omphalocele. Each case is unique and a child’s stay in Golisano’s NICU can vary from days to months depending on the complications. Parents, of course, play a vital role in caring for their baby during their child’s NICU stay and during their follow-up treatment. These appointments are critical! Children with small omphaloceles have good long-term health outcomes; however, those with larger cases will require more attention from specialists to ensure their good health and quality of life.