Omphalocele is a birth defect that creates a gap in the muscles and skin where the bellybutton should be. Abdominal tissue and organs, like the intestines, push through the gap to the outside of the body. The misplaced abdominal tissue and organs are enclosed in a sac.
The omphalocele may be small with just a section of intestines or can be large and involve several abdominal organs. It is often associated with other birth defects.
Normal Anatomy of the Abdominal Organs
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Omphalocele develops before birth. During normal development, the baby’s intestines normally push out into the umbilical cord for a short time. In most babies, the intestines will move back into the abdomen as the baby grows. An omphalocele develops when the intestines do not move back into abdomen. The intestines keep the abdomen from closing properly.
Factors that may increase the risk of this birth defect include:
An omphalocele has a visible defect around the bellybutton.
Omphalocele may be suspected after a standard prenatal screening test. A fetal ultrasound will allow the doctor to see an omphalocele before birth. After birth, an omphalocele can be diagnosed by its appearance.
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:
Organs can sometimes be damaged because of the omphalocele to the intestines. There may also be some difficulty with digestion. Your baby may need supportive care. Medications may include:
The goal of surgery is to put dislocated tissue back in place and close damaged wall. The type of surgery will depend on the extent of the omphalocele.
Large defects may require several surgeries over a longer period of time.
Treatment may also be needed to treat potential complications such as:
To help reduce your chance of your baby having omphalocele:
If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about replacing or stopping SSRIs or asthma medication.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March of Dimes
March of Dimes Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Birth defects-diagnosis. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/diagnosis.html . Updated February 24, 2011. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Birth defects-facts about omphalocele. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/Omphalocele.html . Updated February 24, 2011. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Omphalocele. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated August 28, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2013.
Omphalocele. PEMSoft at EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Accessed March 27, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 6/24/2013