Diaphragmatic hernia

Alternative Names

Hernia – diaphragmatic; Congenital hernia of the diaphragm

Definition of Diaphragmatic hernia

A diaphragmatic hernia is a birth defect in which there is an abnormal opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that helps you breathe. The opening allows part of the organs from the belly (stomach, spleen, liver, and intestines) to go up into the chest cavity near the lungs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A diaphragmatic hernia is caused by the improper joining of structures during fetal development. As a result, the abdominal organs such as the stomach, small intestine, spleen, part of the liver, and the kidney appear in the chest cavity. The lung tissue on the affected side is thus not allowed to completely develop.

Symptoms

Severe usually develops shortly after the baby is born, because of ineffective movement of the diaphragm and crowding of the lung tissue, which causes collapse. The reason why this occurs is not known.

Signs and tests

The pregnant mother may have excessive amounts of amniotic fluid. Fetal ultrasound may show abdominal contents in the chest cavity.

Treatment

A diaphragmatic hernia is an emergency that requires surgery. Surgery is done to place the abdominal organs into the proper position and repair the opening in the diaphragm.

Expectations (prognosis)

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a very serious disorder. The outcome of surgery depends on how well your baby’s lungs have developed. Usually the outlook is very good for infants who have enough lung tissue.

Review

Benjamin W. Van Voorhees, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/27/2009

Infant diaphragmatic hernia
Diaphragmatic hernia repair - series

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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