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Every day in America, an average of five families receive the difficult news that their babies have a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. It may surprise you to know that this defect occurs almost as often as spina bifida, yet few have ever heard of it.
What is a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia?
CDH is an abnormal opening in the diaphragm that allows abdominal organs (the stomach, intestines, spleen, part of the liver and sometimes a kidney) to move into the chest. This prevents the lungs from developing normally, leading to an increased risk for feeding disorders, developmental delays, asthma and gastrointestinal reflux.
In the most severe cases, CDH can be life threatening, even fatal. This condition requires sophisticated treatment options and long-term follow-up care from a knowledgeable team who deals with CDH not just every once in a while but all the time. In the Gulf South, that team is at Ochsner Baptist.
Why Ochsner for CDH Care?
Ochsner Baptist is a leading treatment center for CDH in the region. From day one, our patients benefit from the presence of a high-risk OB team trained to evaluate for other abnormalities once a CDH diagnosis is made. This team frequently consults in the community, outlining care plans for improved pregnancy outcomes.
At Ochsner Baptist, patients benefit from one of the most experienced ECMO teams in the nation. ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) is a modified heart/lung bypass machine used in the treatment of CDH babies.
But it isn’t all about equipment. At Ochsner Baptist, people make the difference. We work together as a real team in the best interest of our patients. Here there is no “my patient,” only “our patient.” We feel a mutual obligation to these babies, their families and to each other.
Another advantage of choosing Ochsner is that your baby will be delivered and cared for at the same facility. Not only is this less stressful for your family, but it allows for a continuity of care that is invaluable. Our team will be here for you and your family from prenatal diagnosis to delivery, through surgery to recovery and throughout long-term follow-up care. We develop a deep understanding of your baby’s unique needs and the needs of your entire family.
Appointments and Tours
Delivery and care for babies with CDH is performed at Ochsner Baptist. Ochsner also has health clinics in Covington, Slidell and Raceland. Clinics in Houma and Monroe will be opening in the near future.
To schedule an appointment or to tour the Ochsner Baptist NICU, call 504-842-3907.
What You Can Expect
Once it is suspected that your baby has CDH, you will meet with our Maternal Fetal Medicine team to confirm the diagnosis. You can expect a thorough evaluation, including a high level detailed ultrasound, fetal MRI and a fetal echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound designed specifically to ensure the baby’s heart is not affected. To evaluate the underlying cause of the baby's defect our team recommends an amniocentesis that will help the team prepare for post delivery care. Also as part of your evaluation you will have the opportunity to meet with our Pediatric Surgery team to discuss prognosis and outline a specific care plan for you and your baby.
Throughout your pregnancy, your baby will be closely monitored by the Ochsner team. Depending on your baby’s growth and activity, preterm delivery may be required. The majority of babies with CDH can be delivered vaginally.
After your baby is born, your pediatric surgeon will work with the Ochsner Baptist neonatology team to stabilize your baby’s condition. Babies who fail to stabilize may be placed on a modified heart/lung bypass machine called ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation). ECMO gives the lungs more time to recover and function properly.
Once your baby has been stabilized, surgery will be performed to repair the CDH. Following the repair, your baby will be in the hospital for several weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the case. While CDH can be fatal, many babies experience no life-long complications. Some babies, though, will face ongoing respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological or other health issues. If this is the case with your child, the team at Ochsner will be with you every step of the way.