About gastroschisis

What is gastroschisis?

Gastroschisis is a rare congenital disorder in which a defect is present in the wall of the abdomen. Typically there is a small abdominal cavity with herniated abdominal organs that usually appear on the right side of the abdomen. There is no membranous sac covering the organs and the intestines may be swollen and look shortened due to exposure to the liquid that surrounds the fetus during pregnancy (amniotic fluid).

What are the symptoms for gastroschisis?

Both omphalocele and gastroschisis share one major characteristic. In both conditions, a baby’s intestines extend out of a hole in the belly. In some cases, other organs like the liver or stomach also push out through the hole.

There are some key differences between these two serious conditions.

What are the causes for gastroschisis?

The causes of gastroschisis and omphalocele aren’t well understood. Researchers believe the conditions develop because of abnormal changes in genes or chromosomes. Exposure to environmental toxins or medications could cause some of these changes. There still needs to be more research done to better understand the causes.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant and concerned about exposure to something that may be harmful to your unborn child. They can help determine any appropriate tests you should have during pregnancy, or conditions they may want to test for after birth. Your doctor can also connect you with a genetic counselor who can help you understand the risks.

What are the treatments for gastroschisis?

Surgery to place the organs back inside the baby’s belly is necessary for both conditions. If the hole is small and only a small part of the intestines is pushing through, the operation may take place soon after birth.

If there is a larger opening with more of the intestines and other organs visible, treatment may require more than one surgery. The surgeries would occur in stages over a period of time. The hole is closed once the organs are in the correct positions inside the belly.

In addition to the size of the hole, the baby’s age is a factor in deciding when and how to operate. A baby born prematurely may need to wait for surgery until they are a little bigger and stronger.

Treatment usually includes giving the baby nutrients and fluids through an IV. Antibiotics are usually given to help prevent an infection. Care also includes monitoring of the baby’s body temperature and warming them as needed.

What are the risk factors for gastroschisis?

It’s not clear why some women give birth to babies with gastroschisis or omphalocele. The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source (CDC) reports that teenage mothers have a higher risk of having a baby with gastroschisis than older mothers.

CDCTrusted Source researchers also identified more risks for omphalocele. These include:

  • drinking alcohol or smoking more than a pack of cigarettes per day during pregnancy
  • taking antidepressant medications called selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) while pregnant
  • being obese during pregnancy

Is there a cure/medications for gastroschisis?

Despite possible complications, surgical treatment of gastroschisis and omphalocele is often successful with no long-term health problems. Babies born with either of these conditions tend to be smaller than average, so they may take longer to develop. It may take a little time for them to become successful at feeding and to have a completely healthy digestive system. With proper care after surgery, these babies can catch up to their peers.

The possibility of other birth defects is somewhat higher in babies with these conditions, so it’s important that your doctor checks for problems with the heart and other organs, as well as problems with genes or chromosomes.

Antibiotics, nutrients and fluids are usually given to help prevent an infection. Care also includes monitoring of the baby’s body temperature and warming them as needed.

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