Gastroschisis is a defect of the Umbilical ring: Evidence from Morphological evaluation of stillborn fetuses


Correspondence to: Dr. Monica Rittler, Tucuman 3130, Olivos, 1636 Buenos Aires, Argentina. E-mail:;



Gastroschisis (GS) is usually described as an abdominal wall defect, to the right of a normally inserted umbilical cord, without membraneous covering of the extruded organs. However, precise anatomical descriptions are lacking in the literature. Our aims were to provide evidence that allows reconsideration of its current definition, as well as an explanation for prenatal death, based on detailed observation of stillborn fetuses with GS and a review of the literature.


Prenatal studies, clinical examinations, and histological findings of five stillborn fetuses with isolated GS are described and photographic evidence is provided.


In all five cases, the umbilical cord was only attached to the left side of the umbilical ring, while the right side remained uncovered, allowing evisceration of abdominal organs. Histological evidence of mucoid-like tissue at the free border of the ring suggests that at that site the cord was initially inserted and later detached. Characteristics of the umbilical ring, bowel dilatation, and autopsy findings of acute asphyxia strongly support compression of umbilical vessels as the cause of fetal death.


Based on these findings, on the lack of evidence in the literature demonstrating full-thickness abdominal wall separating the defect from the umbilical cord, and on a critical review of the proposed mechanisms favoring the hypothesis of a defect separate from the umbilical ring, we propose that GS represents a failure in the normal attachment between umbilical cord and umbilical ring. The consistent clinical course of fetuses with prenatal demise suggests careful targeted monitoring during late gestation. Birth Defects Research (Part A) 97:198–209, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.