Omphalocele usually is diagnosed before birth. The condition, in which the newborn’s abdominal muscles around the umbilicus do not develop properly, can be a serious congenital defect.
The severity of the defect varies. Some infants have only a small portion of the intestine protruding from the abdomen, and others are born with their entire intestine, along with other abdominal organs such as the liver or spleen, outside the abdominal cavity and covered by a thin membrane. They also might have an abnormally small abdominal cavity.
Most infants with omphalocele have other congenital defects, such as congenital heart defects. These co-morbidities can complicate management of omphalocele.
Surgery to repair omphaloceles is complex and should take place as soon as possible following the infant’s delivery to prevent damage to the intestines. Complex or large omphaloceles can require multiple surgeries to complete the repair. This is especially true if the infant’s abdominal cavity is too small to accommodate all of the organs during the initial surgery.