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An omphalocele is a congenital medical condition in which some of the baby’s abdominal organs remain outside of the its abdomen at birth. It is a scary condition, but it only occurs in about 2½ of every 10,000 births and it is treatable with surgery. More importantly, most babies go on to live perfectly normal and healthy lives.

An omphalocele has varying degrees, which means it could only be part of the baby’s intestines that are outside of the abdomen or it could be the baby’s intestines, liver and other abdominal organs, such as the spleen, that have not retracted into the abdomen. The organs are contained in a sac of thin, transparent tissue that protrudes from the baby’s navel where the umbilical cord is found. An omphalocele is a type of hernia that is caused by an abnormal development of the baby’s abdominal muscles, which is normally related to a chromosomal disorder. As a result, an omphalocele is usually accompanied by other conditions, such as a heart or neural tube abnormality.

An omphalocele usually develops during week 13 of pregnancy and can be identified either with an AFP test or a detailed ultrasound. Treatment is postnatal and surgical. However, if there are other complications or if the surgery will be difficult and the sac is still in tact, the surgery will probably be delayed. Babies with an omphalocele are delivered via planned C-section and should be delivered in a hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to ensure that all necessary professional attention is available.

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