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Gastroschisis: Overview & General Information

  • Synopsis: Published: 2016-02-05 - Information and overview of Gastroschisis, a form of birth defect of an infants abdominal wall. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Thomas C. Weiss at Disabled World.

Definition: Gastroschisis

Gastroschisis represents a congenital defect characterised by a defect in the anterior abdominal wall through which the abdominal contents freely protrude. Gastroschisis is a type of hernia, and is believed to be caused by a disruption of the blood supply to the developing abdominal wall from the omphalomesenteric duct artery by the eighth week of gestation. Widespread use of antenatal ultrasound examination and maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) screening has made the detection of gastroschisis possible in the second trimester of pregnancy. Gastroschisis repair is surgery to correct a birth defect that causes an opening in the skin and muscles covering the abdominal wall. The child has a good chance of recovering if the abdominal cavity is large enough. A very small abdominal cavity may result in complications that require additional surgery.

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"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 1,871 babies are born every year in America with gastroschisis."

Gastroschisis is a form of birth defect of a baby's abdominal wall. The baby's intestines protrude from the baby's body through a hole beside their belly button. The hole might be large or small and at times other organs such as the baby's liver or stomach may also protrude from the baby's body.

The birth defect occurs early during pregnancy when the muscles that make up the baby's abdominal wall fail to form as they should. A hole happens which permits the intestines and additional organs to extend outside of outside of the baby's body, commonly to the right side of the baby's belly button. Due to the fact that the intestines are not covered in a protective sac and are exposed to the amniotic fluid, the baby's bowel might become irritated - causing it to twist, shorten, or swell.

Additional Issues

Soon after the baby is born, surgery is required in order to place the abdominal organs inside the baby's body and to repair the baby's abdominal wall. Even after surgery, babies with gastroschisis may have issues with feeding, digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 1,871 babies are born every year in America with gastroschisis.

Causes and Risk Factors of Gastroschisis

The causes of gastroschisis in the majority of babies remains unknown. Some babies have gastroschisis because of a change in their chromosomes or genes. Gastroschisis may also be caused by a combination of genes and additional factors such as the things a mother comes in contact with in her environment, or what the mother eats or drinks, or some medications she takes while pregnant.

As with many families affected by birth defects, the CDC wants to find out what causes them. Understanding factors that are more common among babies with birth defects helps the CDC to learn more about the causes. The CDC funds the Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, which collaborates on large studies such as:

  • The National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS)
  • The Birth Defects Study to Evaluate Pregnancy Exposures (BD-STEPS)

In order to understand the causes of and risk factors for birth defects such as gastroschisis. Recently, CDC researchers reported important findings concerning some factors that affect the risk of having a baby with gastroschisis. These findings include:

Young Age: Teenage mothers were more likely to have a baby with gastroschisis than mothers who were older. White teenagers had higher rates than African-American teenagers.

Tobacco and Alcohol Use: Women who consumed alcohol or were smokers were more likely to have a baby with gastroschisis.

The CDC continues to study birth defects such as gastroschisis to learn ways to prevent them. If you are pregnant, or considering becoming pregnant, consult your doctor about ways to increase your chance of having a baby without birth defects. Gastroschisis may be diagnosed during pregnancy, or following the birth of the baby.

During pregnancy, there are screening or, 'prenatal tests,' to check for birth defects and additional conditions. Gastroschisis may result in a non-average result on a serum or blood screening tests, or it may be found during an ultrasound. Gastroschisis is seen promptly following the birth of the baby.

Treating Gastroschisis

Soon after the baby is born, surgery will be required to place the baby's abdominal organs inside the baby's body, as well as to repair the defect. If gastroschisis defect is small, meaning only some of the baby's intestine is outside of their belly, it is usually treated with surgery soon after the baby is born to put the baby's organs back into their belly and to close the opening. If the gastroschisis defect is large, meaning many of the baby's are outside of the baby's belly, the repair may be performed slowly and in stages. The exposed organs may be covered in a material and slowly moved back into the baby's belly. After all of the baby's organs have been placed back in the belly, the opening is closed. Babies with gastroschisis often times require other forms of treatments too, including the administration of nutrients through an I.V. line, antibiotics to prevent infection, as well as careful attention to control the baby's body temperature.

Awareness: Gastroschisis

Lime green awareness ribbonThe lime green ribbon denotes awareness for gastroschisis. July 30th is Gastroschisis Awareness Day. Each year, one in every 1,871 infants in the United States is born with gastroschisis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learn More About Gastroschisis

  • Gastroschisis
    www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/g/gastroschisis/
  • Gastroschisis.net
    www.gastroschisis.net/
  • Increasing Prevalence of Gastroschisis - 14 States, 1995–2012
    www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6502a2.htm


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