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Fetal Gastroschisis

Fetal gastroschisis occurs when an unborn baby’s abdominal muscles do not form correctly, creating a hole or opening near the umbilical cord. An unborn baby’s intestines, and other organs such as the stomach or liver, push through this opening.

Fetal Gastroschisis Treatment: Why Choose Us?

The maternal-fetal medicine specialists at the Fetal Care Center and gastroenterologists at St. Louis Children’s Hospital provide care for children with fetal gastroschisis. Our pediatric surgeons and gastroenterology specialists are skilled at surgically treating gastroschisis in newborns.

About Fetal Gastroschisis

Fetal gastroschisis is a rare birth defect, affecting approximately 1 out of every 1,870 newborns. 

Fetal Gastroschisis diagram

Babies with gastroschisis are at risk for organ damage. This risk is due to the organs’ exposure to amniotic fluid as they push through the abdominal opening. Even after corrective surgery, a small percentage of babies born with gastroschisis may have lifelong problems digesting food and absorbing nutrients.

Causes of Gastroschisis

Gastroschisis has no known cause. Our genetic counselors can help you understand your future risk of having another child with gastroschisis.

Diagnosing Gastroschisis

Our ultrasound experts use the latest technology to detect gastroschisis in unborn babies. Your ultrasounds take place with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. This doctor quickly provides information about your unborn baby’s condition and treatment options. 

Our specialists focus exclusively on obstetrical and gynecological ultrasounds, performing more than 5,000 tests every year. This high volume and experience helps our diagnostic experts distinguish between gastroschisis and a similar condition called omphalocele.

Learn more about high-risk pregnancy tests.

Treating Fetal Gastroschisis

Throughout pregnancy, you undergo regular ultrasounds to check your unborn baby’s development. Babies with gastroschisis are more likely to be undernourished and small.

We recommend that you deliver at a hospital equipped to care for a high-risk pregnancy, such as the Women & Infants Center. After delivery, your baby receives advanced medical care in our Level IV newborn intensive care unit (NICU). Our focus is on keeping mom and baby together, which is why our NICU is connected to labor and delivery.

Surgery to correct fetal gastroschisis typically occurs on the day your baby is born. For a small defect, your doctor may perform a primary reduction (a single procedure) to place the organs back into the abdominal cavity and close the hole. Larger defects require a staged reduction, where the surgeon slowly moves the organs into the body over a period of days. Treatment steps include:

  1. Placing a protective pouch, called a silo, over the protruding organs 
  2. Slowly guiding the intestines and other organs back into the abdominal cavity
  3. Performing surgery to close the abdominal hole 
  4. Giving your baby intravenous (IV) nutrition while the intestines heal 
  5. Performing additional surgeries, if needed, to correct intestinal blockages or other problems

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University fetal care specialist at the Women & Infants Center, call 855.925.0631.