Gastroschisis is a birth defect that creates a gap in the muscles and skin of the abdominal wall. Intestines can push through the gap to the outside of the body. A gastroschisis tends to occur to the right of the belly button.

A gastroschisis may be small and only involve a section of intestines or be large and involve other abdominal organs. It may also be associated with intestinal atresia .

Normal Anatomy of the Abdominal Organs
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Gastroschisis develops before birth during development of the abdominal wall. It is not clear why, but the abdominal wall does not close completely in one area. It may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors

Gastroschisis is more common in babies born to teenage mothers. Other factors that may increase the chance of a gastroschisis include:

  • Maternal smoking
  • Alcohol during pregnancy
  • Urinary tract infection and STD around the time of conception


Intestines will be visible outside of the body, often to the right of the belly button.


Gastroschisis may be suspected after blood tests in the mother. A fetal ultrasound will show if there are intestines outside of the abdominal wall. Early diagnosis will help make birth and treatment plans. Gastroschisis not diagnosed before birth will be apparent as soon as the child is born.

Additional imaging tests may be done to help plan treatment.


Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your baby. Treatment may include one or more of the following:


The intestines are often damaged. Your baby may have difficulty with digestion and need supportive care. Medications may include:

  • Dextrose and electrolyte solutions for nutrition and hydration
  • Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible


The goal of surgery is to put the intestine and other organs back in place, and close damaged wall. The type of surgery will depend on the extent of the gastroschisis.

Large defects may require several surgeries over a long period of time.


To help reduce your baby's chance of gastroschisis:

  • Quit smoking before and during pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about prenatal care and testing.


Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Allegiance Health or performed by Allegiance Health physicians.

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