Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a defect in the diaphragm. The diaphragm, which is composed of muscle and other fibrous tissue, separates the organs in the abdomen from those in the chest. Abnormal development of the diaphragm before birth leads to defects ranging from a thinned area in the diaphragm to its complete absence. An absent or partially formed diaphragm results in an abnormal opening (hernia) that allows the stomach and intestines to move into the chest cavity and crowd the heart and lungs. This crowding can lead to underdevelopment of the lungs (pulmonary hypoplasia), potentially resulting in life-threatening breathing difficulties that are apparent from birth.
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