Gastroschisis is a congenital condition where there is incomplete formation of the abdominal wall so that the contents protrude outside the body. There is no membrane (peritoneum) covering the abdominal contents. The opening will be located to the right of the umbilicus (belly button), which will be normal. Typically the opening is very small, but it can sometimes be quite large in size. The amount and type of abdominal contents that is protruding varies as well, but it is typically intestinal tissue. The liver is hardly ever protruding through the opening, but sometimes the stomach will be involved. The bowel tissue will float in the amniotic fluid before birth, and this contact with amniotic fluid may damage the bowel tissue, causing it to be abnormal in appearance and function.
Sometimes gastroschisis can be detected very early in pregnancy on a fetal ultrasound or by an elevated maternal or amniotic serum alpha-fetoprotein level. Once detected, the baby may sometimes be delivered early (perhaps at 35 weeks instead of at 40 weeks, which is full-term) to limit the damage to the bowel tissue. Gastroschisis occurs in about 2 of 10,000 live births, and 75% of the time it occurs in first-born children. Slightly more boys than girls are born with this condition. It is very rare for this condition to recur in subsequent pregnancies. Our program has been tracking gastroschisis among live births in select counties since 2005 and are gradually expanding statewide.
- Using data from births to Hennepin and Ramsey county residents between 2007-2011, we found that 4.1 babies were born with gastroschisis per 10,000 births.
- Using this data, we estimate about 29 babies are born with gastroschisis every year in Minnesota.