An omphalocoele is a birth defect of the abdominal wall which results in intestines protruding through the belly button. The intestines are covered by a thin membrane. It is often associated with other congenital defects and can be diagnosed before birth with the use of an ultrasound. Surgical closure of the opening is dependent on the size of the opening and the organs within.
Gastroschisis also refers to an opening in the abdomen, but usually occurs to the right of the belly button, and has no covering membrane. The exposure of the intestines to amniotic fluid during fetal life can result in damage to the bowel. These birth defects can be diagnosed with ultrasound during pregnancy, and can be repaired with surgery soon after birth. In some cases, the bowel may need to be wrapped in a special covering for protection before it is placed back into the abdomen.