Omphalocele

Omphalocele is a rare birth defect that occurs when muscles in a baby’s abdominal wall do not close properly. Many babies with omphalocele have other birth defects, including genetic disorders and heart defects.

    Remarkable Care for Kids

    • Specialists in high-risk pregnancies: High-risk OB/GYNs at Rush specialize in caring for women facing complex pregnancies and deliveries.
    • Prenatal testing and support: The Rush Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Center offers prenatal testing and diagnosis for omphalocele. The center’s specialized team provides you with expert support, evaluation and treatment during your pregnancy and after your child is born.
    • Immediate care after birth: Newborns with omphalocele require immediate medical attention at birth. The Renée Schine Crown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rush is located next to labor and delivery, allowing specialists to care for your child seconds after delivery.
    • Expert surgical care: For more than 20 years, the pediatric surgeons at Rush University Children's Hospital have provided expert surgical care to newborns with birth defects, including omphalocele.
    • Genetic testing and counseling: The Section of Genetics at Rush offers genetic counseling, screening and support to determine if your child has genetic problems associated with omphalocele.

    What is omphalocele?

    Omphalocele causes the intestines or other abdominal organs to protrude from the belly button, with just a thin sac protecting them. Many babies completely recover and may or may not require surgery immediately at birth.

    Prenatal tests and ultrasounds can detect omphalocele. It is also immediately obvious at birth. If your baby has omphalocele, they'll need immediate medical attention after birth, which may include surgery to put the intestines or other organs back into the abdominal cavity. Babies who do not have any other genetic defects often have a complete recovery after omphalocele surgery.

    Some babies have giant omphaloceles, which are very large and typically involve the liver, spleen and intestines. They often have small lungs and require breathing assistance with a ventilator at birth.

    Care for omphalocele

    For expectant mothers

    If prenatal tests find that your baby has omphalocele, you will receive high-risk prenatal care to ensure that you and your baby stay as healthy as possibly throughout the rest of your pregnancy.

    • Monitoring: You will need additional prenatal tests and monitoring to determine how your baby is doing throughout your pregnancy.
    • Planning: High-risk OB/GYNs and maternal-fetal specialists at Rush will help you prepare for a safe labor and delivery. They can also create a plan for immediate medical care for your baby after delivery.
    • Screening: During your pregnancy, you can have genetic testing for your baby to screen for genetic problems associated with omphalocele.

    For your baby

    Babies often need surgery if they have an omphalocele. Depending on the size of the omphalocele and the organs involved, there a several options.

    • Surgery shortly after birth: This is done for a small omphalocele, in which only some of the intestine is outside the belly. Your baby’s surgeon will move the intestines back into the abdomen and close the hole in the abdominal wall.
    • Staged surgery: For a large omphalocele that includes many organs, your baby will need a number of surgeries. This gives your baby a chance to grow to make room for all of the organs to fit.
    • Delayed surgery: If your baby has a very large omphalocele, the surgeon may postpone surgery to allow your baby’s body to grow larger and stronger. Your baby will need close monitoring and evaluation during this waiting period.
    • Feeding support: Neonatal dietitians make sure your baby is getting appropriate nutrition to grow.