Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Omphalocele Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Omphalocele

You will not notice any symptoms of omphalocele before your baby is born — though some babies with omphaloceles have other health problems that may cause symptoms before birth.

After birth, you and your baby’s doctor will see organs from the baby’s belly sticking through the belly button area covered by the layers of the umbilical cord (the omphalocele sac). Your baby may have only a small hole and a small bulge of organs that comes through, such as a part of the intestine. Or there may be a large hole and a large bulge with several organs, like the intestine and liver, on the outside.

Your baby may not have any symptoms. When babies do have symptoms, they usually don’t come from the omphalocele itself, unless the sac is torn. Usually, the symptoms come from other problems that can happen at the same time as omphalocele. About half of the babies with omphalocele have other birth defects, including problems with the:

  • Heart
  • Spine
  • Digestive tract
  • Lungs
  • Urinary tract

Some babies with omphalocele are born with lungs that are a bit smaller than normal. One symptom of this may be rapid breathing. In some case, babies may need to use a breathing machine (ventilator) to help their lungs.

If your baby’s lungs are small, it may be hard for them to breathe when the organs are pushed back into their belly. The organs push up on the chest and squeeze the lungs. Your baby’s doctor will carefully examine your baby for this problem and use the information to help plan treatment.

Some babies have chromosome abnormalities that cause a variety of other symptoms. If this is the case for your child, your baby’s doctor will talk with you about other symptoms your child might have.

Omphalocele Diagnosis

In most cases, doctors see omphalocele during a routine ultrasound exam before the baby is born. On the ultrasound they see a bulge that sticks out from the baby’s belly and holds some of the intestine or other organs. If this happens with your baby, the team at Seattle Children’s Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program can work with you to get ready for the birth and plan for the treatment your baby may need.

Your doctor may talk with you about having tests before your baby is born to check for other problems with development. The doctor may suggest doing an ultrasound of your baby’s heart (fetal echocardiogram) to check its shape and how it’s working.

Once your baby is born, the doctor will see the omphalocele during a physical exam. Your baby may need tests after birth to tell if there are any other health problems.

Contact Us

If you have questions about omphalocele treatment, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794, extension 4.