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With an omphalocele, omphalo- refers to the naval, also known as the bellybutton—or more formally the umbilicus—which is the attachment site of the umbilical cord, and -cele relates to hernia or swelling.
This folding allows for the formation of the gut within the abdominal cavity.
During around the sixth week of development, the liver and intestines grow really quickly, and because the abdominal cavity’s still pretty small, there’s limited space, which causes the midgut to herniate through the umbilical ring into the umbilical cord, and this happens normally.
At about week 10, though, the abdominal cavity typically has grown enough to allow the midgut to come back from the umbilical cord.
With omphalocele, the midgut—along with potentially other organs from the abdominal cavity—fail to return back to the abdominal cavity, and therefore stay in the umbilical cord all the way through fetal development and even after birth.
Now, since the intestines and potentially other organs aren’t meant to be in the umbilical cord, there can be complications like the abdominal cavity not growing to its normal size, as well as pinched blood vessels and loss of blood flow to an organ.
An omphalocele is an abdominal wall birth defect in which the intestines, liver, and occasionally other organs remain outside of the abdomen in a sac, as a result of a defect in the development of the muscles of the abdominal wall. The sac, which is formed from an outpouching of the peritoneum, protrudes in the midline through the umbilicus.
Omphalocele shouldn't be confused with another condition called gastroschisis, which also involves the herniation of abdominal contents out of the abdominal cavity. Unlike in omphalocele, herniated bowels in gastroschisis lack a peritoneal layer covering.
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