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by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Gastroschisis is a birth defect that creates a gap in the muscles and skin of the abdominal wall. Intestines can push through the gap to the outside of the body. A gastroschisis tends to occur to the right of the belly button.
A gastroschisis may be small and only involve a section of intestines or be large and involve other abdominal organs. It may also be associated with intestinal atresia.
Gastroschisis develops before birth during development of the abdominal wall. It is not clear why, but the abdominal wall does not close completely in one area. It may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Risk Factors TOP
Gastroschisis is more common in babies born to teenage mothers. Other factors that may increase the chance of a gastroschisis include:
Intestines will be visible outside of the body, often to the right of the belly button.
Gastroschisis may be suspected after blood tests in the mother. A fetal ultrasound will show if there are intestines outside of the abdominal wall. Early diagnosis will help make birth and treatment plans. Gastroschisis not diagnosed before birth will be apparent as soon as the child is born.
Additional imaging tests may be done to help plan treatment.
Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
The intestines are often damaged. Your baby may have difficulty with digestion and need supportive care. Medications may include:
The goal of surgery is to put the intestine and other organs back in place, and close damaged wall. The type of surgery will depend on the extent of the gastroschisis.
Large defects may require several surgeries over a long period of time.
To help reduce your baby's chance of gastroschisis:
If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about prenatal care and testing.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March of Dimes
March of Dimes Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Birth defects: diagnosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 20, 2014. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Facts about gastroschisis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 12, 2015. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Feldkamp ML, Reefhuis J, Kucik J, et al. Case-control study of self-reported genitourinary infections and the risk of gastroschisis: Findings from the national birth defects prevention study 1997-2003. BMJ. 2008;336(7658):1420-1423.
Gamba P, Midrio P. Abdominal wall defects: prenatal diagnosis, newborn management, and long-term outcomes. Semin Pediatr Surg. 2014 Oct;23(5):283-90.
Skarsgard ED. Management of gastroschisis. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016 Jun;28(3):363-369.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/30/2014
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