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Abdominal Wall Defects

What are abdominal wall defects?

Abdominal wall defects in infants refer to a group of congenital conditions where there is a disruption or failure of normal abdominal wall development during fetal life. These defects may result in a range of abnormalities, including openings or gaps in the abdominal wall, protrusion of abdominal organs outside the body (herniation), and malformations of the abdominal muscles and skin.

What causes abdominal wall defects?

The exact causes of abdominal wall defects are not always known, but they are thought to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some factors that may contribute to the development of abdominal wall defects include:

  • Genetic predisposition: Certain genetic abnormalities or chromosomal disorders may increase the risk of abdominal wall defects.

  • Maternal factors: Maternal age, exposure to certain medications, infections, or toxins during pregnancy, and maternal obesity may increase the risk of abdominal wall defects.

  • Fetal factors: Abnormalities in fetal development, such as disruptions in the closure of the abdominal wall during embryonic growth, may contribute to the development of these defects.

What are the symptoms of abdominal wall defects?

Symptoms of abdominal wall defects in infants can vary depending on the type and severity of the defect but may include:

  • Visible protrusion of abdominal organs outside the body (e.g., omphalocele or gastroschisis)

  • Abnormalities in the appearance of the abdomen, such as an enlarged belly button (umbilical hernia) or bulging of the abdomen

  • Difficulty feeding or poor weight gain

  • Respiratory difficulties, particularly if the defect is associated with compression of the lungs

  • Other congenital abnormalities or birth defects in the affected infant

How to treat abdominal wall defects?

Treatment of abdominal wall defects in infants depends on the type, size, and severity of the defect.


Treatment options may include:

  • Surgical repair: Surgical intervention is often necessary to correct abdominal wall defects and reposition herniated organs back into the abdomen. The timing and approach to surgery depend on various factors, including the size of the defect, the presence of associated complications, and the overall health of the infant.

  • Supportive care: Infants with abdominal wall defects may require supportive care to address complications such as respiratory distress, feeding difficulties, or infections. This may involve nutritional support, respiratory support, and close monitoring by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers.

  • Long-term management: Some infants with abdominal wall defects may require ongoing medical care and monitoring to address any associated complications or developmental concerns.


Treatment decisions should be made in consultation with a team of healthcare providers, including paediatric surgeons, neonatologists, and other specialists, who can assess the specific circumstances of the infant and recommend the most appropriate management approach. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for optimizing outcomes in infants with abdominal wall defects.

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