Children's Hospital Colorado

Body-Stalk Anomaly

Body-stalk anomaly is a severe abdominal wall defect that results in the absence or shortening of the umbilical cord. In this condition, the abdominal organs lie outside the abdominal cavity and attach directly to the placenta (the structure that is the connection between the mother and baby). Body-stalk anomaly is the rarest and most severe of fetal abdominal wall defects and is considered to be fatal.

Because a body-stalk anomaly diagnosis can be devastating for parents, it's important to detect the condition as early as possible. The Colorado Fetal Care Center is a national leader in diagnosing complex fetal conditions like body-stalk anomaly. We provide families with helpful resources throughout the process and are here for them every step of the way.

Body-stalk anomaly is a rare abdominal wall defect in which the abdominal organs develop outside of a baby's abdominal cavity and remain attached directly to the placenta. This condition is also accompanied by a short or non-existent umbilical cord. Due to the severity of the defects, this condition is almost always fatal for the fetus.

What causes body-stalk anomaly?

While the cause of body-stalk anomaly is unknown, theories include early rupture of the amnion (the sac encasing the fetus) along with amniotic band constriction due to that rupture. Disruption of the embryo's vascular system or an abnormality in the fertilized egg are also potential causes.

Body-stalk anomaly has been associated with cocaine usage and younger mothers but is mostly considered to occur randomly. It is not believed to run in families, meaning that there likely is not a genetic cause. Because it is believed to occur randomly, no future pregnancies should be affected by this anomaly.

Body-stalk anomaly is usually diagnosed by prenatal ultrasound in either the first 10-14 weeks of pregnancy or at approximately 16-20 weeks of pregnancy, depending on when a patient has an ultrasound performed. Malformed abdominal structures are usually visible on the images, as are abnormalities of the head, arms and legs.

Because the condition is almost always fatal, it's important to detect it as early as possible to give parents the option of early termination. After diagnosis, some parents may choose to allow the pregnancy to proceed without interruption.

As a parent, receiving the news that your baby has any birth defect - especially one that threatens his or her life - can be devastating. If you are facing a body-stalk anomaly prognosis, receiving support from the best fetal care team is imperative to safeguarding your physical and emotional health.

Because body-stalk anomaly has no known treatments, the Colorado Fetal Care Center focuses treatment for this condition on counseling and support for the expectant mother and family. Once doctors have explained the body-stalk anomaly prognosis to expectant parents, they will have the option to terminate the pregnancy or allow it to proceed naturally, knowing the baby will live for only a short time after delivery.


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