About Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia
Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a birth defect that affects approximately 1,000 babies born each year occurs when there is an opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the organs in the abdomen from the organs in the chest. The abnormal development of the diaphragm, occurring before birth, causes a hole in this muscle that helps control breathing and is linked to the development of the lungs. CDH may range from a small hole, or hernia, to the complete absence of the diaphragm.
An absent or partially formed fetal diaphragm allows the organs in the abdomen (stomach, intestines, liver, spleen, kidneys) to move into the chest cavity during pregnancy and crowd the baby’s heart and lungs. This can lead to compression and underdevelopment of the lungs (pulmonary hypoplasia), and potentially life-threatening breathing difficulties after birth. CDH may also cause high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension), requiring the baby’s heart to work harder to pump blood to the arteries. Over time, the heart may weaken, resulting in heart failure. Many infants with CDH may have other complications, such as developmental problems with the brain, kidneys and bowel. All of the abnormalities are usually inside the body – the child’s face and external body is almost always completely normal.
While the exact cause of CDH is unknown, it is a complex disease that requires special and focused expertise to optimize patient outcomes. Parent resources are provided at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital to help families understand all aspects of CDH, including the organs most affected the wide range of severity, the process of the medical care involved, and the treatments that can help your child.
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