Radiology Teaching Files > Case 5463124

previously visited GASTROSCHISIS
Contributed by: Dr Phillip Silberberg, Children's Hospital Omaha, Radiologist, Omaha Childrens, Creighton University and UNMC, Nebraska, USA.
Patient: 4 day old
History: Neonate with prenatal diagnosis of ventral abdominal wall defect.  Prenatal ultrasound showed bowel herniating to the right side of the umbilicus. 

Fig. 1: Gastroschisis: Staged reinsertion of large gastroschisis into the peritoneal cavity utilizing a silo. Heart size is normal with no associated congenital heart disease.

Fig. 2: Lateral View: Post application silo for gastroschisis.
Diagnosis: Gastroschisis

Gastroschisis is a congenital, full-thickness fusion defect of the anterior abdominal wall that results in herniation of abdominal contents into the amniotic cavity.  It typically occurs to the right of the umbilical cord and is not covered by a membrane.  Most cases involve the small bowel and portions of the large bowel. 

There is controversy regarding the pathophysiology of gastroschisis, but most do agree that it is secondary to a vascular accident.  One suggestion is that there is abnormal involution of the right umbilical vein, resulting in weakness of the anterior abdominal wall which subsequently ruptures.  Others suggest premature interruption of the right omphalomesenteric artery or rupture of an exomphalos.  

A similar congenital defect is an omphalocele.  An omphalocele differs from gastroschisis in that it occurs midline at the base of the umbilical cord and is covered by a membrane.  It is also associated with other serious structural defects and chromosomal abnormalities, whereas gastroschisis is typically an isolated defect.  

Patient Presentation

Gastroschisis is usually detected during the second trimester ultrasound.  It is visualized by bowel protruding through the fetal abdominal wall.  Since these free-floating bowel loops lie uncovered in the amniotic fluid, they may become thick and edematous and appear as an echogenic cauliflower-shaped mass.   In addition, it may also be detected by an elevated maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level.  Gastroschisis occurs in approximately 1 in 4000 births and is twice as common as an omphalocele. 

An omphalocele is also typically detected during the 2nd trimester ultrasound.  It is visualized by an anterior midline abdominal mass at insertion of the umbilical cord and there is typically fetal ascites.  The mass has a smooth surface and contains bowels, stomach and the liver.  There is a membrane covering the viscera, although it may be difficult to  visualize.  The average size of the defect is 2.5 to 8 cm.  Similar to gastroschisis, an omphalocele has an elevated maternal AFP level.  In an omphalocele, acetylcholinesterase levels may also be increased. 


After diagnosis of gastroschisis in utero, it is recommended to have serial ultrasounds to assess fetal well-being.  Many patients are delivered via cesarean section, although this has not been shown to have any benefit over vaginal delivery.
 After delivery, it is recommended to cover the bowels with sterile dressings in order to help prevent infection and to preserve fluid and heat. 

After delivery the bowel is surgically replaced in the abdomen via primary repair or a staged repair process.  In a staged repair, the temporary placement of a silo may be used to help reduce the hernia.  The baby usually spends several weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit until the intestines are able to allow feeding.  


As mentioned before, gastroschisis is typically an isolated defect.  It is, however, associated with other gastrointestinal problems such as intestinal atresia, stenosis and necrosis.  These morbidities occur in 25% of patients. Intrauterine growth restriction (IURG) also occurs in most fetuses due to nutrient loss through exposed bowel in the amniotic space.  Most mortality in these babies result from necrotizing enterocolitis, and complicated cases unfortunately have short bowel syndrome.    Overall survival is 90% and the babies eventually feed normally and grow up normally.

The prognosis of an omphalocele depends on the severity of the associated co morbidities, such as pulmonary hypoplasia due to the decreased size of the thoracic cavities, or chromosomal defects.  When associated anomalies are present, the mortality rate is 80%, but if chromosomal and/or cardiovascular abnormalities are present, it can increase to 100%.  If the omphalocele is an isolated defect, it has a similar prognosis to gastroschisis.   

Both gastroschisis and omphalocele have increased incidence of adhesions and secondary bowel obstuctions, as a consequence of either the primary repair and often due to their repeated abdominal surgeries.


Contributed by:

Jane West, Medical Student, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, NE
Dr. Paul Babyn, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Phillip Silberberg, Omaha Children’s Hospital, Omaha, NE

Brandi Reeve, Medical Student, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE


1.  Agarwarl, R.  Prenatal Diagnosis of Anterior Abdominal Wall Defects.  India Journal of Radiological Imaging.  2005.  15:3:361-372.
2.  Hunter, A, Soothill, P. Gastroschisis--an overview. Prenatal Diagnosis. 2002; 22:869.

3.  Khan, AN., et al.  Gastrocschisis.  Emedicine.  Dec. 2, 1005.
4.  Stephenson, CD., MacKenzie, AP., Lockwood, CJ.  Obstetrical and neonatal management of gastroschisis.  UpToDate.  Feb. 16, 2006.
5.  Stringer, DA., Babyn, PS.  Pediatric Gastrointestinal Imaging and Intervention.  2nd Edition.  2000:  360-361.
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Additional Details:

Case Number: 5463124Last Updated: 09-08-2006
Anatomy: Gastrointestinal (GI)   Pathology: Congenital
Modality: Conventional RadiographAccess Level: Readable by all users
Keywords: gastroschisis silo

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