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When the diaphragm develops with a hole in it, the abdominal organs can pass into the chest cavity. The lung tissue on the affected side is compressed, fails to grow normally, and is unable to expand after birth. As the child begins to breathe, cry, and swallow, air enters the intestines that are protruding into the chest. The increasing size of the intestines puts pressure on the other side of the chest, lung, and heart and can quickly cause a life-threatening situation.
The indications for a diaphragmatic hernia repair include:
- chest X-rays showing diaphragmatic hernia
- severe breathing difficulty (respiratory distress) shortly after birth
- prenatal ultrasound often identifies a diaphragmatic hernia
Review Date 5/14/2017
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.