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Gastroschisis

  • What is gastroschisis?

    Gastroschisis is an opening in the abdominal wall that appears during fetal development. It is considered to be a birth defect.

    Gastroschisis occurs in about 1 in every 5,000 births.

    Children's Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation team actively participates in research focused on the treatment and understanding of gastroschisis and has made major contributions to the field. Children's doctors developed the serial transverse enteroplasty (STEP) procedure, a surgical technique developed that has been used on patients with gastroschisis.

     
    Boston Children's Hospital
    333 Longwood Avenue,
    Fegan 3
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-5275

  • What is gastroschisis?

    Gastroschisis is an opening in the abdominal wall — the muscles and skin of the abdomen — that appears during fetal development. In gastroschisis, a baby's stomach and small and large intestines are not enclosed in the abdominal wall and appear outside of a baby's body.

    As the fetus grows, the opening may become smaller and may tighten around the intestine, or the bowel could twist around itself. This can lead to poor function of the bowel after delivery as well as long-term feeding problems.

    What causes gastroschisis?

    The cause of gastroschisis is unknown.

    Normally, during early development, the intestines, stomach and liver protrude to the outside of the body. As the fetus grows, these organs are "pulled in" and the abdominal wall forms around them. This does not occur in gastroschisis.

  • Gastroschisis is often diagnosed prenatally, by ultrasound. Pregnant women may be referred to a neonatal surgeon.

  • If your baby's lungs are mature, your doctor may want to deliver your baby at 36 weeks. Therefore, a Caesarean delivery may be necessary.

    After delivery, your baby will receive fluids via IV. Her intestines will be placed in a clear surgical plastic bag and she will be brought to the neonatal intensive care unit. Surgery to repair the opening and return her intestines to their proper place will take place within 12-24 hours.

    If the opening is small, the repair can be done in one step. If the opening is larger, it may need to take place slowly over three to five days.

    Most babies recover well. Recovery time in the hospital includes feeding your baby through IV. In some cases, a baby will develop a condition known as "short gut." Short gut is characterized by diarrhea, very slow weight gain and deficiencies of important vitamins and minerals. In this instance, your baby may require a longer course of IV nutrition.

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