Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions


What is omphalocele?

Omphalocele (pronounced um-FAL-uh-seel) is a hole (hernia) in the muscles and skin at your child's belly button. In babies with omphalocele, the intestine or other organs in the belly (abdomen) poke out of the hole.

As a baby grows inside the mother's womb, some of the baby's organs start to develop outside of the belly. Later in development, these organs move inside the baby's belly. In omphalocele, the organs do not move inside the baby's belly. Instead, there is an abnormal hole through the baby's umbilical cord. The organs stay outside the baby's belly, and the umbilical cord forms a sac around them.

Like gastroschisis , in which there's a hole next to the umbilical cord, omphalocele is an abdominal wall defect. But the two conditions are different.

Omphalocele in Children

Omphalocele affects 1 to 2 in 10,000 children. It's more common in babies of mothers over age 35.

Omphalocele at Seattle Children's

We have treated many children with omphalocele at Seattle Children's. Our surgeons have a great deal of experience with this condition. Our doctors worked on some of the surgical treatments that have significantly lowered the death rate for some types of omphalocele.

We are regarded as a national pioneer in treating giant omphalocele (abdominal wall defects greater than 6 to 10 centimeters). We have the lowest reported morbidity and mortality rates in the medical literature for surgeries to correct giant omphalocele in children.

When you come to Seattle Children's, you have a team of people to care for your child before, during and after surgery. Along with your child's surgeon, you are connected with doctors trained to care for new babies with complex problems (neonatologists), nurses, dietitians, child life specialists, social workers and others. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and help your family through this experience.

Since 1907, Seattle Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.