Bladder exstrophy is a rare, complex birth defect involving the urinary, reproductive and intestinal tracts, as well as the musculoskeletal system. During a baby’s development in the womb, the abdominal wall and underlying organs sometimes do not fuse properly, and the infant is born with the bladder inside out and exposed on the outside of the body.
In some cases, bladder exstrophy can result in weakened abdominal muscles and a shorter than average urethra and vagina or penis. It can cause a variety of complications and problems, including incontinence, catheterization, reflux, infertility and the need for repeated reconstructive surgery.
- affects about one in every 40,000 babies
- has no known cause
- is more common in boys
- varies in its severity
- occurs early in fetal development
- may be associated with urinary incontinence and back-up of urine from the bladder to the kidneys, called vesicoureteral reflux
- is treated with surgery
- requires lifelong follow-up care