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Prune Belly Syndrome

Unborn babies with prune belly syndrome have abnormalities that affect the abdominal muscles, genitals and bladder. The condition is also known as Eagle-Barrett syndrome.

Prune Belly Syndrome Treatment: Why Choose Us?

The Fetal Care Center partners with pediatric nephrologists (kidney specialists) and urologists at St. Louis Children’s Hospital to care for babies with prune belly syndrome. We have special expertise in treating this rare birth defect.

About Prune Belly Syndrome

Prune belly syndrome is a very rare birth defect, affecting approximately 1 out of every 30,000 to 40,000 newborns. The disorder mostly affects males.

Babies born with prune belly syndrome have three abnormalities:

  1. Missing, or partially formed, abdominal muscles, which makes the stomach appear wrinkled
  2. An abnormal, expanded bladder and urinary tract problems
  3. Genital defects, such as undescended testicles in males, where the testicles do not move down into the scrotal sac

Because they cannot completely empty their bladders, infants with prune belly syndrome may develop serious bladder, ureter and kidney problems. They also are more likely to have other birth defects that affect the skeletal system, intestines and heart.

Causes of Prune Belly Syndrome

Prune belly syndrome has no known cause, but it may have a genetic link. Our genetic counselors can help you understand your risk for prune belly syndrome in future pregnancies.

Diagnosing Prune Belly Syndrome

Our diagnostic experts use the latest ultrasound technology to detect prune belly syndrome in unborn babies. If your doctor suspects prune belly syndrome, you may also need a fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This imaging procedure uses a magnetic field (not radiation) to provide detailed information about your unborn baby’s organs, including the heart, lungs and abdomen. This test is safe for your unborn baby.

Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists are present during these tests to provide fast, accurate information. Our experience performing thousands of these exams every year gives us the expertise to detect problems early. Learn more about high-risk pregnancy tests.

Treating Prune Belly Syndrome

Throughout pregnancy, you undergo regular ultrasounds to monitor your unborn baby’s development. We recommend delivering at a facility that specializes in high-risk pregnancies, such as the Women & Infants Center. After delivery, your baby receives advanced medical care in the Level IV Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Our NICU is connected to labor and delivery.

Pediatric urologists and nephrologists at St. Louis Children’s Hospital care for babies born with prune belly syndrome. Treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics: To prevent urinary tract infections
  • Vesicostomy: A small surgical opening in the bladder that allows urine to drain outside the abdomen and into a baby’s diaper
  • Surgery: To reconstruct the abdominal wall and urinary tract, or to move a boy’s testicles into the scrotum
  • Kidney transplants: To replace failing kidneys. Our kidney transplant specialists are among a select few in the country with the expertise to perform transplants on infants. Learn more about our kidney transplant program.

Contact Us

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