Did you know? gastroschisis is a very common birth defect. It is one of the fastest growing birth defects in the nation. It has been reported to be as common as 1 out of every 2000 births in some areas, yet we still do not know the cause.
What it is: Gastroschisis is a birth defect in which an infant's intestines stick out of the body through an abdominal wall defect, which is usually a hole on one side of the umbilical cord. It is a type of hernia, or rupture, and occurs in 1 out of every 2,229 births.
Causes: Unknown. Gastroschisis is not caused by anything the mother did or did not do before or during pregnancy. 75% of Gastroschisis babies are first born children.
Associated Problems: Other related birth defects are rare. 50% of gastroschisis babies will be born prematurely. The majority of these babies have inauterine growth retardation, or slower than average fetal growth. Many are in the 10th percentile (or below) for their gestational age and are born at a very low birth weight.
Treatment: If gastroschisis is found before birth, the mother will be closely monitored for the duration of the pregnancy to insure that her unborn baby remains healthy. Plans will be made for a careful delivery (usually by early induction or c-section) and the baby will be immediately transfered to the NICU. The main treatment for gastroschisis is surgery to put the bowel back into the infant's abdomen and close the defect. After surgery, the infant will require IV fluids and antibiotics to prevent infection, and his/her body temperature must be carefully controlled. The baby will be fed TPN (total perenatal nutrition) intravenously until ready to start feeding through an NG feeding tube. Eventually, the baby learns to breastfeed or drink from a bottle. The average gastroschisis baby spends 4-8 weeks in the NICU.
Complications: Underdeveloped lungs (due to prematurity) and excess pressure placed on the lungs after surgery can make it difficult for gastroschisis babies to breathe. Many require breathing support (nasal cannula, CPAP, or ventilation). Bowel damage caused before or during birth may also slow down recovery. In extreme cases, bowel death leads to Short Bowel Syndrome. Gastroschisis babies are unable to eat on their own for awhile and must be fed using a NG feeding tube until the digestive system recovers and is functioning normally. Some of these babies have a difficult time learning to eat. When gastroschisis babies require TPN (IV nutrition) for too long, serious liver damage can occur.
Prognosis: 90% survival rate. Prognosis is fairly good. Most gastroschisis babies go on to live completely normal lives.