Children's Hospital Colorado

Gastroschisis

Gastroschisis, which is Greek for "belly cleft," is an opening in a baby's abdominal wall through which some of the baby's bowels (intestines) may protrude. For parents, the prospect of having a child with gastroschisis can be very scary. But the good news is that most babies born with this defect have positive outcomes. At Children's Hospital Colorado's Colorado Fetal Care Center, we work with families to diagnose gastroschisis early so we can ensure the best outcomes as well as develop a treatment plan after birth.

What is gastroschisis?

Gastroschisis is a congenital defect, meaning that it is present at birth. This defect creates a hole in the abdominal wall, which allows some of the baby's intestines to fall outside of the abdominal cavity. Gastroschisis is almost always located immediately to the right of the insertion of the umbilical cord. The hole is usually about 1 to 2 inches in diameter (2 to 5 centimeters), but can be bigger in rare cases, exposing other organs such as the stomach and liver.

What causes gastroschisis?

In most babies, the cause of gastroschisis is unknown. However, recent research has indicated that certain factors can increase the likelihood of having a baby with the condition. One trend that all doctors tend to agree on is that the risk of having a baby born with gastroschisis is higher for mothers who are 20 years old or younger. Other possible risk factors include smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs during pregnancy.

Although not a very significant factor, some research suggests that gastroschisis can occur again within the same family — estimating that gastroschisis can happen in future pregnancies about 4% of the time.

Contact the Colorado Fetal Care Center

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Michael Zaretsky, MD

Michael Zaretsky, MD

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