Gastroschisis is a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall where the baby’s intestines stick outside of the body through a hole near the belly button. The cause of this condition is unknown, although it affects approximately 1,871 babies born each year in the United States.
Gastroschisis occurs if the muscles that form the baby’s abdominal wall do not form correctly. Because the baby’s intestines are not covered by a protective sac, they are exposed to amniotic fluid, often causing irritation, swelling, and possibly twisting. Surgery is typically required soon after birth to replace the intestines and repair the abdominal wall.
Here at Cincinnati Children’s, we are studying babies with gastroschisis using a unique, small MRI scanner we helped develop, located in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This MRI scanner allows us to view inside the baby’s belly while the intestines are moving and to evaluate the blood vessels going to the intestines. Our team is investigating how the intestines contract (squeeze) and how the blood flows to the intestines in children diagnosed with gastroschisis.
We are hopeful that by learning more about the intestines once they are placed back into the belly, we can identify babies who may experience complications sooner, allowing for better long-term patient care. It’s one more way the Radiology Department at Cincinnati Children’s is using cutting-edge technology to improve the lives of our tiniest patients.
Contributed by Dr. Mantosh S. Rattan and edited by Tim O’Connor.