Expert omphalocele care in Denver, Colorado

Omphalocele (sometimes called exomphalos) is a rare congenital abnormality in which one or more organs remain outside the abdomen, housed in a sac. The multidisciplinary teams from the Center of Maternal/Fetal Health at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver are uniquely equipped with expertise and the latest technology to handle all aspects of a safe pregnancy, delivery and pediatric surgery post-delivery for a baby diagnosed with omphalocele.

Our hospital also provides a medical campus like no other, so we are able to provide medical care for high-risk mothers and babies under one roof.

To find a specialist experienced in omphalocele, please call our program care coordinator at (720) 754-7642.
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children - Center for Maternal\Fetal Health

It is normal for the organs of a fetus to develop outside the abdomen until about week 10 of gestation. However, with omphalocele (pronounced um-fal-eh-seal), the abdominal wall does not close properly, so the organs continue to grow outside the abdomen after this stage of gestation. This condition is similar to another abdominal congenital condition, gastroschisis, but treatment and long-term outlooks differ for each condition.

Omphalocele is a type of hernia that affects an estimated one in 6,000 live births. Risks of the condition include infection, injury of the organs, an underdeveloped abdomen and/or underdeveloped lungs. Babies with this congenital abnormality may also have heart, spine and digestive organ issues. About 30 percent of omphalocele patients have a genetic abnormality.

Diagnosing omphalocele

Omphalocele is often diagnosed during a routine prenatal ultrasound in the second or third trimester. An echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) usually is ordered to detect any heart abnormalities. Typically, additional ultrasounds are conducted during the remainder of the pregnancy to gather more information and create a plan of treatment after birth.

Omphalocele treatment

If your baby is diagnosed with omphalocele, it is important to work with a perinatologist, such as those at our Center for Maternal/Fetal Health, to plan your delivery at a hospital offering a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (the most advanced NICU), as well as highly trained pediatric surgeons, neonatologists, experienced pediatric staff and specialized pediatric medical tools. Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children’s NICU is the largest Level IV NICU in the Rocky Mountain region.

Surgery is the recommended treatment for omphalocele. Babies with small omphalocele typically can be carried to-term and do not require a Cesarean section (C-section) at birth. Surgery is performed in the days or weeks following birth. Small omphalocele patients will undergo a primary repair operation in which the organs are placed back into the abdominal cavity and the abdominal wall defect is closed.

Babies with large or giant omphalocele require more attention. A C-section may be necessary to protect the sac during delivery, and a specialized team of respiratory therapists should be on-hand to help evaluate breathing and offer assistance as giant omphalocele babies often have smaller lungs. These babies may require a staged repair in which the sac is protected with medication while the belly is given time to grow enough to accommodate the organs. When the belly is more developed, an operation to place the organs back into the body takes place.

Long-term outlook for patients with omphalocele

After a repair surgery, babies will need to have regular follow-ups and continued care. Some babies will have feeding difficulty, breathing problems, growth delays and/or reflux. Babies born with omphalocele may also be more prone to sickness. With special care and attention, many babies with omphalocele go on to live happy, healthy lives.