Diaphragmatic hernia is a defect in which an opening is present in the diaphragm at birth. The diaphragm is the partition separating the chest and abdominal cavities. The abnormal opening allows some of the organs typically found in the abdomen to move into the chest cavity. In infants born with diaphragmatic hernia, the abdominal organs push up against the lungs. This prevents the lungs from developing normally.
Diaphragmatic hernia is a serious condition with many potential complications and side effects.
Diaphragmatic hernia is caused by a failure of the diaphragm to completely fuse during fetal development.
Diaphragmatic Hernia—Stomach and Intestines Move into Chest Cavity
Surgery to repair the defect and move the organs into the abdomen may be done. Surgery involves either sewing the edges of the diaphragm together, or if the hole is too large, using an artificial patch to fully close the hole. Fetal surgery may be an option, but it may not be available everywhere.
Aggressive respiratory support, including
mechanical ventilation, is often needed. Different ventilator strategies may be used. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), or cardiopulmonary bypass, may be necessary.
There are no current guidelines to prevent diaphragmatic hernia.
Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Cincinnati Children's website. Available at: https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/c/diaphragmatic-hernias. Updated January 2016. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Fetal Treatment Center website. Available at: http://fetus.ucsf.edu/cdh. Accessed March 23, 2018.
McAteer JP, Hecht A, De Roos AJ, Goldin AB. Maternal medical and behavioral risk factors for congenital diaphragmatic hernia. J Pediatr Surg. 2014;49(1):34-38.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/1/2014
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