Omphalocele: Infant discharged from hospital a year early

Omphalocele

An omphalocele is a birth defect, whereby a newborn infant's intestines are found outside the body due to a split in the abdominal wall at the umbilical (navel) area. (Fig. 1.)

Omphalocele in infant
Fig. 1. Infantile omphalocele. Note protrusion of abdominal contents through a split in the front of the child's abdomen.

The intestines, covered only by a thin layer of tissue, can protrude through the abdominal wall. Some cases can be managed by tight bandaging, but with the child in this case, because the wound was so large, hospital admission was essential.

Cause

Omphalocele is caused by a defect in the abdominal wall so that the intestines can protrude through the hole, covered by a membrane..

Abdominal wall defects develop as a baby grows inside the mother's womb. During development, the intestines and other organs (liver, bladder, stomach, and ovaries or testes) develop outside the body at first and later return inside. In babies with omphalocele, the intestines and other organs remain outside the abdominal wall, with a membrane covering them. The exact cause for abdominal wall defects is not known.

There are different sizes of omphaloceles, and this child's condition was quite severe so that after one year in hospital, she was expected to remain there for another year. Fortunately, wheatgrass extract soon made it possible for the child to return home.

Treatment

Omphaloceles are repaired surgically, but, in this case, where the abdominal wall is not strong enough to hold the intestines in, the child must be hospitaised. There is a sac (covering) that helps contain the abdominal contents, but if it is not strong enough, it can burst open, putting the child in danger. There are many other possible complications such as breathing problems caused by the child being unable to expand the lungs properly.

Treatment involves covering the sac with a sterile mesh material, which is then stitched in place to form what is called a silo. As the baby grows over time, the abdominal contents are gradually pushed back into the abdominal cavity. Eventually, when the omphalocele can fit comfortably within the abdominal cavity, the abdomen is closed surgically, which in this case, was unnecessary.

Fig. 2. Rapid reduction of swelling and inflammation of omphalocele after just two weeks wheatgrass extract application, in a 12 month old baby.

Because this child's abdominal opening was slow at healing, she was kept in hospital. When the first photograph was taken after one year of hospitalisation, surgeons said she would need to stay another year. This was when her mother contacted me to see if wheatgrass extract could hasten the healing process.

Although I had no idea whether the extract would work or not, it did - and very well. After just ONE APPLICATION over the abdominal swelling significantly accelerated the healing process and reduced inflammation. In fact the child was able to return home after only 2 weeks. 

Home, 2 weeks after wheatgrass extract treatment commenced.