Definition of Omphalocele
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.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
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 umbilical cord.
An omphalocele can be clearly seen, because the abdominal contents stick out (protrude) through the belly button area.
Signs 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 , 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 necessary.
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.
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., Inc. – 11/2/2009