Abdominal Wall Defects

Abdominal Wall Defects



Abdominal wall defects are birth (congenital) defects that allow the stomach or intestines to protrude.


Many unexpected and fascinating events occur during the development of a fetus inside the womb. The stomach and intestines begin development outside the baby's abdomen and only later does the abdominal wall enclose them. Occasionally, either the umbilical opening is too large, or it develops improperly, allowing the bowels or stomach to remain outside or squeeze through the abdominal wall.

Causes and symptoms

There are many causes for birth defects that still remain unclear. Presently, the cause(s) of abdominal wall defects is unknown, and any symptoms the mother may have to indicate that the defects are present in the fetus are nondescript.


At birth, the problem is obvious, because the base of the umbilical cord at the navel will bulge or, in worse cases, contain viscera (internal organs). Before birth, an ultrasound examination may detect the problem. It is always necessary in children with one birth defect to look for others, because birth defects are usually multiple.


Abdominal wall defects are effectively treated with surgical repair. Unless there are accompanying anomalies, the surgical procedure is not overly complicated. The organs are normal, just misplaced. However, if the defect is large, it may be difficult to fit all the viscera into the small abdominal cavity.


If there are no other defects, the prognosis after surgical repair of this condition is relatively good. However, 10% of those with more severe or additional abnormalities die from it. The organs themselves are fully functional; the difficulty lies in fitting them inside the abdomen. The condition is, in fact, a hernia requiring only replacement and strengthening of the passageway through which it occurred. After surgery, increased pressure in the stretched abdomen can compromise the function of the organs inside.


Some, but by no means all, birth defects are preventable by early and attentive prenatal care, good nutrition, supplemental vitamins, diligent avoidance of all unnecessary drugs and chemicals—especially tobacco—and other elements of a healthy lifestyle.



Dunn, J. C., and E. W. Fonkalsrud. "Improved Survival of Infantswith Omphalocele." American Journal of Surgery 173 (April 1997): 284-7.

Key terms

Hernia — Movement of a structure into a place it does not belong.
Umbilical — Referring to the opening in the abdominal wall where the blood vessels from the placenta enter.
Viscera — Any of the body's organs located in the chest or abdomen.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Gastrointestinal fistulas associated with large abdominal wall defects: experience with 43 patients.
Gastroschisis and omphaloceles comprise the most common fetal abdominal wall defects. Gastroschisis is defined as a full-thickness paraumbilical defect of the abdominal wall, typically the right side, resulting in prolapse of the bowel, which is then exposed to the amniotic fluid, as there is no membrane covering the defect.
Ultrasound or CT scan is diagnostic After a thorough history and physical examination, ultrasonography or CT often helps differentiate a ventral hernia from other abdominal wall defects. In patients with a ventral hernia, either imaging modality will demonstrate prolapsed loops of hollow viscus.
Gastrointestinal system anomalies were grouped as EA/TEF, ARM, atresias involving stomach, ileum or colon, diaphragmatic hernia, abdominal wall defects, rotation defects, and annular pancreas.
Omphalocele is one of the most common fetal abdominal wall defects. When this defect is of giant size, significant respiratory compromise may occur and impact on prognosis.
The rare condition causes enlargement of the internal organs and tongue, abdominal wall defects and increased growth.
Some anomalies require surgery after birth regardless of whether they are treated in utero, such as abdominal wall defects, bowel obstruction, or cervical teratoma.
His other area of major interest is in hernia surgery and reconstruction of abdominal wall defects.
Although pregnant women have used the decongestant pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) for years, recent reports suggest a slight increase in abdominal wall defects in newborns, so it's suggested women avoid oral decongestants during the first trimester.
The Government-funded research, carried out by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit at Imperial College, London, found a small excess risk of neural tube defects, abdominal wall defects and low birthweight among babies born within 2km of a landfill.