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. The organs outside the belly are usually covered by the layers of the umbilical cord (the omphalocele sac).

As a baby grows inside the mother’s womb, some of the baby’s abdominal organs move through a hole in the body wall, out of the belly and into the umbilical cord. This is normal. Later in normal development, these organs move back inside the baby’s belly and the hole in the body wall closes.

In omphalocele, the organs do not move back inside the baby’s belly. Instead, they stay outside the belly, and the hole in the body wall stays open. This does not cause symptoms before birth, but you and your baby’s doctor will see the signs after your baby is born.

Omphalocele is a type of abdominal wall defect. Another type of abdominal wall defect is gastroschisis, in which there’s a hole in the body wall next to the umbilical cord and the intestine (with no layers covering it) is outside the body. Although the two conditions are both abdominal wall defects, they are very 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 greatly lowered the death rate for some types of omphalocele.

We are a national pioneer in treating children with omphalocele that is several inches across. Doctors call this condition giant omphalocele. Compared to other reports in the medical literature, we have great success in treating children with giant omphalocele.

If doctors see omphalocele on an ultrasound before your baby is born, our Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment team can monitor your baby’s condition and plan for the care your baby may need after birth.

Read more about expert treatment for omphalocele at Seattle Children’s.

Contact Us

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