Bladder Exstrophy

What is bladder exstrophy?

Bladder exstrophy is a congenital (present at birth) abnormality of the bladder. This condition occurs when the skin over the bottom part of the lower abdominal wall (bottom part of the tummy) does not form correctly. This results in the bladder being open and exposed on the outside of the abdomen. This is explained in the name as exstrophy means inside out.

Bladder exstrophy is a rare condition, it occurs in one in every 40,000 births and it affects two to three times more boys than girls. However, if you have one baby with bladder exstrophy, the chance of having another baby with the condition increases to one in 100.

What are the symptoms of bladder exstrophy?

In addition to the bladder being exposed, patients may also have related problems with their urinary system and pelvic bones. Although these related problems vary in severity and they do not affect every baby. The more common problems associated with this condition include;

  • Problems with urine flowing from the bladder

  • Frequent urination as the bladder has a smaller capacity

  • The anus may be further down than usual

  • The belly button may be further down than usual

  • Undescended testes in boys (where the testes are not in their usual place in the scrotum)An umbilical or inguinal hernia (where part of the abdominal lining and sometimes a section of the intestine bulges out through a weak area in the abdominal muscles)

How is bladder exstrophy diagnosed?

Bladder exstrophy can be diagnosed before birth using ultrasound scans. However, it is often not detected until your baby is born, when it is a clearly visible condition.

What causes bladder exstrophy?

There is no clear cause for this condition, it is not caused by anything a parent did or did not do during pregnancy and it is not simply an inherited condition. We do know that it affects the developing baby during the very early stages of development, at about four to six weeks into the pregnancy. This is the stage that organs, muscles and other tissues start to form.

How is bladder exstrophy treated?

Initially, the baby’s abdomen will be covered in ‘cling film’, which protects the bladder surface. Treatment involves a series of operations over the first few years of the baby’s life. The overarching aim is to prevent any kidney damage and correct the abnormalities so that the child’s urinary system and genitals work properly and look as normal as possible.

Mr Wood will explain the exact treatment required for your baby, as this can vary from infant to infant with this condition. As bladder exstrophy requires ongoing treatment to manage the condition and prevent related problems it is important to be looked after by an expert in this field.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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