| Risk Factors
Omphalocele is a birth defect of the abdomen. Abdominal tissue and organs like the intestines push out of a gap in the abdominal wall where the belly button should be. The abdominal tissue and organs are enclosed in a sac.
The omphalocele may be small with just a small section of intestines or can be large and with several abdominal organs pushing out of the abdominal wall.
It is often associated with other birth defects.
Normal Anatomy of the Abdominal Organs
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Omphalocele occurs during fetal development. A baby’s intestines normally push out into the umbilical cord at some point during development. In most babies, the intestines will move back into the abdomen as the baby grows. The umbilical cord will close and form a belly button.
When the intestines do not move back into abdomen an omphalocele develops. The abdomen cannot close to form the bellybutton.
Factors that may increase the risk of this birth defect include:
- Maternal smoking—risk is higher if you smoke more than one pack a day
- Alcohol use by mother during pregnancy
- Maternal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for the treatment of depression or anxiety—used prior to and through first trimester of pregnancy
- Maternal use of asthma medication—used prior to and through first trimester of pregnancy
- Overweight or obesity in mother before pregnancy
Omphalocele is a visible birth defect.
Omphalocele can be diagnosed by its appearance. It will be visible at birth.
Omphalocele may also be diagnosed with fetal ultrasound in the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
Additional imaging tests may be done to help plan treatment.
Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
Your baby may need supportive care. Medications may include:
- Dextrose and electrolyte solutions for nutrition and hydration
- Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible
The goal of surgery is to put dislocated tissue back in place and close damaged wall. The type of surgery will depend on the extent of the omphalocele.
Large defects may require several surgeries over a longer period of time.
Treatment may also be needed to treat potential complications such as:
- Short bowel syndrome—which may cause growth failure because of the intestine’s inability to completely digest or take in nutrients
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Bowel obstruction—especially in babies with a malrotated intestine
To help reduce your chance of your baby having omphalocele, take these steps before pregnancy:
- If you smoke, quit
- Avoid alcohol
Talk to your doctor about replacing or stopping SSRIs or asthma medication.
Birth defects-diagnosis. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/diagnosis.html. Updated February 24, 2011. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Birth defects-facts about omphalocele. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/Omphalocele.html. Updated February 24, 2011. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Omphalocele. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 28, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Omphalocele. PEMSoft at EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Accessed March 27, 2013.
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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