Gastroschisis is a birth defect marked by a gap in the muscles and skin of the abdominal wall. Intestines and other abdominal organs can push through the gap to the outside of the body.

Normal Anatomy of the Abdominal Organs

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The cause is not well understood. It may be caused by a mother's exposure to toxins.

Risk Factors

Gastroschisis is more common in babies born to teenage mothers. Other things that may raise the risk in a pregnant mother are:

  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Certain medicines
  • Urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted infections (STI)
  • Being around toxins


Intestines will be seen outside of the body, often to the right of the belly button.


Gastroschisis may be suspected after blood tests in the mother. A fetal ultrasound will show if there are intestines outside of the abdominal wall. Early diagnosis will help guide birth and treatment plans. If it is not found before birth, then it will be found as soon as the child is born.

Pictures may be taken after the baby is born. This can be done with ultrasound.


After the baby is born, surgery will be needed to put the organs inside the body and close the gap. The type of surgery that is done depends on the size of the defect. Large defects may need more than one surgery.

Medicines may also be given, such as:

  • Dextrose and electrolyte solutions for nutrition and hydration
  • Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible


There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


March of Dimes Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada


About gastroschisis. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website. Available as:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed November 4, 2020.
Facts about gastroschisis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available as:
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Accessed November 4, 2020.
Gastroschisis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 4, 2020.
Skarsgard ED. Management of gastroschisis. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016 Jun;28(3):363-369.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2021

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