Omphalocele, Infant
Omphalocele, Infant

Omphalocele, Infant

An omphalocele is a type of birth defect that happens when a developing baby's stomach muscles do not close around the growing intestines and abdominal organs. This usually occurs around the 11th week of pregnancy. If your baby has this condition, the intestines and some abdominal organs are outside the abdomen in a thin sac of see-through tissue.
Babies who are born with this condition often have other birth defects as well. Surgery is needed to put the organs back inside the abdomen.

What are the causes?

This condition occurs when the muscles of the abdominal wall of a developing fetus do not close properly during pregnancy.

What increases the risk?

A baby is more likely to develop this condition if:
  • The mother is relatively young or old.
  • The mother is overweight.
  • The mother used in vitro fertilization to become pregnant.
  • There is a family history of omphalocele.
  • The mother does any of the following during pregnancy:
    • Smokes.
    • Uses alcohol.

What are the signs or symptoms?

The only sign of this condition is the sac of abdominal organs outside the abdomen. If the sac is broken or leaking, there may also be signs of infection.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed during pregnancy or at birth. Sometimes, this defect is found during a routine prenatal exam, such as an ultrasound or blood test.
At birth, an omphalocele can be seen sticking out of the abdomen right away. Your health care provider will make sure that the sac is not leaking and will check whether the organs inside the sac are healthy.

How is this treated?

Surgery to put the organs back inside the abdomen is the only treatment for this condition. Surgery may be done before your child leaves the hospital. This depends on the size of the omphalocele and whether your child has any other problems. A small omphalocele may simply be put back inside the abdomen right away. A large one may need to be repaired in stages.


  • An omphalocele is a birth defect in which a baby's intestines and some abdominal organs are outside the abdomen in a thin sac.
  • Babies with an omphalocele sometimes have other birth defects or syndromes.
  • The only treatment for an omphalocele is surgery to put the sac and organs back inside the abdomen, and to eventually close the hole in the abdomen. This may take one or many surgeries, depending on how large the hole is.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.