Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Program

What is CDH?


Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is a hole or opening in the baby’s diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. This hole allows for organs that usually develop in the abdomen, such as the stomach, intestines, liver and spleen, to move up into the chest. These organs push against the structures that are normally in the baby’s chest, including the lung and the heart. These organs crowd the baby’s lungs and prevent them from growing and developing properly.

CDH can range in severity from mild to life-threatening, depending on the baby’s defect and other conditions present.

Pulmonary hypoplasia

Without enough space to grow, the baby’s lungs are often small and underdeveloped. This smaller than normal lung development is known as pulmonary hypoplasia and causes breathing problems at birth

Pulmonary hypertension

CDH can also cause abnormal development of the blood vessels in the lungs, causing higher blood pressure in the lungs known as pulmonary hypertension. The high blood pressure can make it harder for blood to flow in the lungs and make it harder to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the lungs.

What causes CDH?

CDH is a rare birth defect occurring in about one in 2,500 to 5,000 babies. In most cases, the cause is unknown.

The condition occurs when the diaphragm muscle doesn’t form properly while the fetus is developing, allowing the abdominal organs to push into the chest.

CDH is most commonly seen on the baby’s left side, but can happen on the right side, or even both sides (bilateral).

Contact Us

Prenatal Diagnosis

For more information or to schedule an appointment call:

  • Texas Children’s Fetal Center at 832-822-2229 or 1-877-FetalRx (338-2579) toll-free.

Our phones are answered 24/7. Immediate appointments are often available.

Long-term Follow-up

For more information about Texas Children’s Hospital’s congenital diaphragmatic hernia programs, please call the following numbers:

  • CDH Complex Clinic - 832-822-3696
  • CDH Outcomes Clinic - 832-822-3135