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An omphalocele is a birth defect in which the infant's intestine or other abdominal organs stick out of the

belly button (navel). In babies with an omphalocele, the intestines are covered only by a thin layer of
tissue and can be easily seen.
An omphalocele is a type of hernia. Hernia means "rupture.
See also:
Omphalocele repair
Umbilical hernia
An omphalocele develops as a baby grows inside the mother's womb. The muscles in the abdominal wall
(umbilical ring) do not close properly. As a result, the intestine remains outside the abdominal wall.
Approximately 25 - 40% of infants with an omphalocele have other birth defects. They may include
genetic problems (chromosomal abnormalities), congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and heart defects.
An omphalocele can be clearly seen, because the abdominal contents stick out (protrude) through the
belly button area.
There are different sizes of omphaloceles. In small ones, only the intestines stick out. In larger ones, the
liver or spleen may stick out of the body as well.
Exams and Tests
Prenatal ultrasounds often identify infants with an omphalocele before birth. Otherwise, a physical
examination of the infant is enough for your health care provider to diagnose this condition. Testing is
usually not necessary.
Omphaloceles are repaired with surgery, although not always immediately. A sac protects the abdominal
contents and allows time for other more serious problems (such as heart defects) to be dealt with first, if
To fix an omphalocele, the sac is covered with a special man-made material, which is then stitched in
place. Slowly, over time, the abdominal contents are pushed into the abdomen.
When the omphalocele can comfortably fit within the abdominal cavity, the man-made material is
removed and the abdomen is closed.
Sometimes the omphalocele is so large that it cannot be placed back inside the infant's abdomen. The
skin around the omphalocele grows and eventually covers the omphalocele. The abdominal muscles and
skin can be repaired when the child is older to achieve a better cosmetic outcome.
Outlook (Prognosis)
Complete recovery is expected after surgery for an omphalocele. However, omphaloceles often occur
with other birth defects. How well a child does depends on which other conditions the child also has.
If the omphalocele is identified before birth, the mother should be closely monitored to make sure the
unborn baby remains healthy. Plans should be made for careful delivery and immediate management of
the problem after birth. The baby should be delivered in a medical center that is skilled at repairing
omphaloceles. The baby's outcome is improved if he or she does not need to be taken to another center
for further treatment.
Parents should consider screening their unborn baby for other genetic problems that are associated with
this condition.
Possible Complications
Death of the intestinal tissue
Intestinal infection
When to Contact a Medical Professional
This problem is diagnosed and repaired in the hospital at birth. After returning home, call your health care
provider if the infant develops any of these symptoms:
Decreased bowel movements
Feeding problems
Green or yellowish green vomit
Swollen belly area
Vomiting (different than normal baby spit-up)
Worrisome behavioral changes
Turnage RH, Richardson KA, Li BD, McDonald JC. Abdominal wall, umbilicus, peritoneum, mesenteries,
omentum, and retroperitoneum.In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL,
eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed.Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 43.
Ledbetter DJ. Gastroschisis and omphalocele. Surg Clin North Am. 2006;86(2):249-260.
Update Date: 11/7/2011
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Univeristy of
Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M.,
Browse the Encyclopedia
MedlinePlus Topics
Birth Defects
Infant omphalocele
Omphalocele repair - series
Read More
Omphalocele repair
Umbilical hernia

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