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Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia

This rare type of hernia occurs when there is an opening in a newborn’s diaphragm (muscle needed for breathing). The diaphragm is located between the heart and lungs, separating the chest from the abdomen.

Challenges of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia

When a child is born with this kind of hernia, it may cause a dislocation of his or her organs. Often, the stomach, spleen, intestines and liver will migrate into the chest, displacing the lungs. This results in abnormal and slow growth of the lungs, impairing breathing in the developing baby.

A diaphragmatic hernia can only be corrected by surgery and should be done soon after birth. Most babies are admitted to WakeMed’s Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery (NICU) prior to surgery to be monitored and given supplemental oxygen.

Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Repair

Under general anesthesia, the pediatric surgeon makes a small incision in the baby’s abdomen, just under the ribs. This gives space to allow the surgeon to gently reposition the organs. This is done by carefully pulling them through the opening in the diaphragm and into the abdomen. Once the organs are placed in the appropriate location, the hole in the diaphragm is repaired and sutured so that the organs cannot move out of position.


Babies are moved to WakeMed’s NICU to recover. Recovery time varies, but it may take a few months.

Additional Information

Learn More About What to Expect from Diaphragmatic Hernia Repair