It is more common than cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and many other newborn health issues, yet few people are aware of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) or the 1,600 babies each year in the United States that struggle to take their first breath as a result.
Babies with CDH are born with a hole in their diaphragm that allows their internal organs to creep into their chests. As a result, the lungs don’t have the chance to develop properly, making it difficult, if not impossible for these babies to breathe.
Even with surgery to correct the CDH immediately following birth, fewer than 70% of babies born with CDH survive. In an effort to call attention to this serious newborn health issues, the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute joined with area families to sponsor a CDH Awareness Walk and Easter Egg Hunt on April 12, 2014.
"Two out of every 25 babies born with any sort of congenital abnormality are born with CDH – that is a huge number for newborn health problem about which there is little public awareness," says St. Louis Fetal Care Institute Director Dr. Mike Vlastos, MFM.
"We see too many cases of CDH that are not discovered until after a baby is born – which delays our ability to perform life-saving surgery immediately following birth. By building awareness of CDH, we hope to increase the number of these children who are diagnosed before they are born, which gives these babies a better chance at survival," Dr. Vlastos said.
While research is currently underway to find effective methods of treating CDH prenatally, the standard of care today is to surgically repair the hole in the baby’s diaphragm immediately following birth. Prenatal diagnosis is critical so that surgical teams are in place to immediately intervene the moment the child is born. The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute has a team of pediatric surgeons, maternal fetal medicine specialists, and neonatologists who are skilled in diagnosing and treating CDH.
"Short of finding effective prenatal treatment, our best chance to help the 30% of children that don’t survive today is to do a better job of raising awareness and identifying CDH before they are born," says Dr. Vlastos.
Click here to see photos from the 2014 St. Louis Fetal Care Institute CDH Awareness Walk and Easter Egg Hunt at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center.