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Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia
What causes congenital diaphragmatic hernia?
The causes of CDH are unknown. Most CDH cases occur sporadically as an isolated problem. The most severe cases occur as part of a syndrome with additional prenatal anatomic abnormalities or underlying genetic or chromosomal abnormalities.
What are the symptoms of congenital diaphragmatic hernia?
Signs are usually noticed before birth on a prenatal ultrasound and include:
- Abnormal heart position
- Fluid in the chest
- Protrusions of the stomach, intestines or liver into the chest
Symptoms of a CDH after your baby is born include:
- Severe difficulty breathing because the displaced organs compress the lungs
- Bluish skin from a lack of oxygen
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
How is congenital diaphragmatic hernia diagnosed?
Your physician can usually detect a CDH through a routine prenatal ultrasound during an obstetric visit. If so, your physician may refer you to our Prenatal Pediatrics Institute for further testing to evaluate your baby’s condition. Tests may include:
- Fetal MRI to determine the extent of organ movement through the diaphragm and to assess lung development
- Fetal echocardiogram to obtain an ultrasound of your baby’s heart to evaluate its position and determine blood pressure in the lungs (test for pulmonary hypertension)
- Amniocentesis to detect any chromosomal features that may identify a related syndrome, which in turn may indicate other problems
Read more about the high-risk prenatal care services at the Prenatal Pediatrics Institute of Children’s National.
What are the treatments for congenital diaphragmatic hernia?
In almost all cases, CDHs are repaired after your baby is born. The Critical Care Delivery Program of the Prenatal Pediatrics Institute at Children’s National will develop a carefully organized delivery plan to ensure that your baby receives quick treatment after birth for any respiratory problems.
Among the treatment options we offer for CDHs are:
- Specialized breathing assistance through use of ventilators and medications.
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a bypass method to ensure that your baby receives enough oxygen after birth to allow for stabilization prior to surgical repair.
- Surgery to replace the herniated organs into the abdomen and to repair the hole in the diaphragm. Although most cases are not currently treated with neonatal laparoscopic surgery, you may also want to familiarize yourself with this approach.
The Critical Care Delivery Program specialists, surgeons and neonatologists at our Prenatal Pediatrics Institute have extensive experience in the management of CDH. We develop plans that ensure continuity of care from the early stages of pregnancy, after birth, and across childhood.