A congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a birth defect where the muscle between the chest and abdomen has not formed completely. This is sometimes known as a Bochdalek Hernia or CDH. CDH results in the organs of the abdomen moving up into the chest, this may involve all or some of the stomach, intestines, liver or spleen. All these organs can then cause compression of the lungs and poor growth of the lungs. This results in your baby experiencing difficulty in breathing soon after birth. Sometimes children may only present months to years after birth with a CDH, although this is rare.
Some cases of CDH are diagnosed before birth by ultrasound. After birth your child will be managed in an ICU ward and may require mechanical ventilation. All cases need to be repaired surgically but the timing of the operation will vary depending on each child's condition. The operation can be done with an open approach to the abdomen or via a thoracoscopic (key-hole) operation in the chest.
A Morgagni hernia is another type of diaphragmatic hernia that is often first diagnosed in older children. With this condition the compression of the lungs is not as severe and children often do not have significant breathing issues. It is sometimes diagnosed incidentally when a child is having X-rays for an unrelated condition. These hernias do not usually require as extensive surgery and can often be repaired with a laparoscopic (key-hole) operation of the abdomen.