Get answers to your Hernia questions.
Most infants with a diaphragmatic hernia are transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It may take days or weeks for your child's health to be stable enough for surgery.
Your child will also have a tube going from the mouth to the stomach to keep air out of the stomach. There will also be a catheter (tube) placed in an artery (to monitor the blood pressure) and a vein (to deliver nutrients and medicines).
Your child will stay in the hospital for several weeks after the surgery. Your child will be on a breathing machine after the surgery. Once the baby is taken off the breathing machine, he or she will still need oxygen and some medicine for a while.
Feedings will start after your childâ€™s bowels start working. Feedings are usually done through a feeding tube from the mouth into the stomach or small intestines until your child can take all the food he or she needs by mouth.
Most infants with diaphragmatic hernias have reflux when they eat. This means the food or acid in their stomach moves up into their esophagus (the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach). This can be painful for your child. It also leads to frequent spitting up and pneumonia, which makes feedings more difficult once your child is taking food by mouth.
The nurses and feeding specialists will help you learn the best way to feed your baby. Some children need to be on a feeding tube for a long time to get enough food to grow.
The outcome of this surgery depends on how well your baby's lungs have developed. Usually the outlook is good for infants who have well-developed lung tissue. Most babies with a diaphragmatic hernia from birth (congenital) are very ill and will stay in the hospital for a long time. With advances in medicine, the outlook for these infants is gradually improving.
All children who have had diaphragmatic hernia repairs will need to be watched closely to make sure the hole in their diaphragm does not open up again as they grow.
Children who had a large opening or defect in the diaphragm, or who had more problems with their lungs after birth, may have ongoing lung disease after they leave the hospital. They may need oxygen, medicines, and a feeding tube for months or years.
Some children will have problems crawling, walking, talking, and eating. They will need to see physical or occupational therapists to help them develop muscles and strength.
Ehrlich PF, Coran AG. Diaphragmatic hernia. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 101.
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