Pediatric Gastroschisis

Gastroschisis is a rare condition that requires specialized care as soon as a baby is born. At Children's Health℠, we specialize in surgical treatment and personalized care for babies with gastroschisis and other rare gastrointestinal (digestive system) conditions. Our top pediatric surgeons, neonatologists and gastroenterologists work together to evaluate your baby and determine the best treatment plan. We’re here for your child for any follow-up care they may need as they grow up.

What is Pediatric Gastroschisis?

Gastroschisis means that a fetus has an opening in the belly that allows the intestines to extend outside their body. The condition happens early in pregnancy when the baby’s abdominal wall doesn't close the way it should. The opening can be small or large, and in some severe cases, the stomach and/or liver can also extend outside the body.

Because the organs have grown outside of the body, they are exposed to amniotic fluid, the fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb. This exposure can cause the organs to have irritation, swelling and damage. These babies need surgical treatment shortly after birth to place the organs inside the body and close the opening.

Babies with gastroschisis have a greater than 90% survival rate. Our team uses the most advanced surgical techniques and specialized care to help these babies have the best possible start in life.

How is Pediatric Gastroschisis diagnosed?

Doctors can often detect gastroschisis in a routine ultrasound at 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy, and they then refer these expectant mothers to the FETAL Center at Children’s Health. We do further evaluations at 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy to determine how severe the baby’s condition is.

Our team of specialists works with you to create the best plan for the rest of your pregnancy and delivery. Your dedicated FETAL care coordinator is by your side throughout your pregnancy, answering any questions you may have and coordinating the care you need.

What causes Pediatric Gastroschisis?

Gastroschisis is a rare condition that is estimated to occur in one of every 2,000 babies, but the cause is unknown. Certain factors can increase the risk of gastroschisis, such as:

  • Younger age of mothers (teens or early twenties)
  • Genitourinary infection in early pregnancy, such as a urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted disease
  • Alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy

How is Pediatric Gastroschisis treated?

Shortly after birth, the baby will undergo surgery to place the intestines in the belly and close the opening. If the baby’s condition is severe with a large amount of organs outside the body, the surgeon may use a staged approach. In this case, the organs are covered with a specialized plastic pouch called a silo and slowly placed into the belly. Once the organs are within the belly, surgeons repair the opening.

As these babies recover, they receive around-the-clock care in our nationally ranked Level IV NICU. During the recovery time, most babies with gastroschisis have trouble feeding or getting the nutrition they need. While in the NICU, your baby will likely receive nutrition through an IV and antibiotics to prevent infection.

Once your baby is feeding well and their organs are functioning properly, you can take them home. We’ll schedule follow-up appointments with our team. Through our Thrive Program, we’ll continue to provide any care your child needs as well as support for your family.

Pediatric Gastroschisis Doctors and Providers

Our multidisciplinary team of pediatric surgeons, neonatologists, gastroenterologists and other specialists work together to provide you and your family with the highest level of care.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long will my baby be in the NICU?

    On average, babies with gastroschisis stay in the hospital for about 6 to 8 weeks, but it can be more or less time based on your baby’s condition. During that time, we ensure your baby has the highest level of care 24/7.

  • Will my baby have complications from gastroschisis throughout their life?

    After recovering from treatment, most babies with this condition can go on to live healthy lives without complications. Some babies with severe cases may need ongoing care to help with feeding, digestion and adequate nutrition. Our pediatric gastroenterology program is one of the best in the country. Our specialists are experts in treating even the most complex cases to help these children live the healthiest lives possible.