The diaphragm is a muscle which lies beneath the lungs and above the stomach, intestines, spleen, and abdominal organs. The diaphragm's contraction and relaxation make breathing possible.
WHAT IS A DIAPHRAGMATIC HERNIA?
A diaphragmatic hernia is a hole in the diaphragm. This happens when the diaphragm does not completely form before the baby is born. These hernias usually appear on the left side. This hole allows the stomach, intestines, and other abdominal organs to enter the chest cavity. As a result, the lung on that side is compressed and kept from developing normally.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Most often babies will show symptoms soon after birth will show symptoms soon after birth. These symptoms may include: severe breathing problems, blue or gray skin coloring, sunken abdomen and/or decreased or absent breathing sounds on one side. If a baby is born showing any of the above symptoms, a chest x-ray is performed. A diaphragmatic hernia is diagnosed when the x-ray shows intestines in the chest.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Initially, the baby will need help breathing. This is done by inserting a tube into the baby's windpipe. The tube will then be attached to a breathing machine, called a ventilator. Surgery is necessary to move the intestines and abdominal organs back into the abdomen and close the hole in the diaphragm. Because the lung is collapsed on that side, the baby will have a chest tube. The baby will stay on the ventilator after surgery until the collapsed lung improves. Doctors and nurses will monitor the baby's condition closely during this time. Recovery time will vary with each baby.