Approximately one in 5,000 babies are born with omphalocele, a condition in which internal organs herniate outside the baby’s abdomen during fetal development. Although the exact cause of the birth defect is unknown, the condition results from the failure of the abdominal muscles to form correctly.
According to pediatric surgeon Dr. Brad Feltis, surgical director for Midwest Fetal Care Center, omphalocele can be detected and diagnosed as early as 11 or 12 weeks into a pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who consume alcohol or are heavy smokers are more likely to have a baby born with omphalocele. Additionally, the use of certain medications during pregnancy, including selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, as well as obesity can increase the risk of omphalocele.
According to Dr. Feltis, just one generation ago omphalocele was almost a universally fatal condition. Now, however, advanced surgical options are available to successfully place the herniated organs back into the abdominal cavity.
To correct an omphalocele, the sac containing the herniated organs is covered with a manmade sleeve, which is then stitched in place. As the baby grows, the abdominal contents are pushed back into the abdominal cavity. When the child is older, an additional surgery can be performed to repair the abdominal muscles.
Sources: Medline Plus, CDC