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abdominal wall defects, gastroschisis, intestinal atresia, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)



  1. Lund, Carolyn Houska MS, RN, FAAN
  2. Bauer, Kathryn BSN, RNC
  3. Berrios, Margarita MD


This article presents a case study of a newborn with gastroschisis, followed by a retrospective analysis of gastroschisis cases admitted in a single tertiary neonatal intensive care unit over a 5-year period in terms of maternal age, prenatal diagnosis, type of repair, length of stay, and complications. Gastroschisis is an abdominal wall defect resulting from ischemia to blood vessels that supply the abdominal wall during the first trimester of pregnancy. The injury results in an opening in the abdominal wall that allows the abdominal contents, most often intestines and stomach, to develop outside the abdominal cavity. The incidence of gastroschisis is rising, primarily in young mothers aged 20 years or younger. Environmental factors including medication use and nutrition are proposed mechanisms for this association. Surgical management includes techniques for primary repair in which the intestinal contents are immediately closed inside the abdomen, or staged repair if the abdominal cavity is not able to accommodate the volume of intestine. Exposure of the fetal intestine to amniotic fluid can cause inflammation and damage, and significant gastrointestinal problems occur during the neonatal period after closure of the defect. Complications include prolonged ileus, sepsis, associated intestinal atresias, malabsorption, wound infection, and necrotizing enterocolitis.