What is Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH)?

What is Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH)?

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is a congenital disability that occurs when the diaphragm — the thin muscle separating the chest and abdomen — does not fully form, leaving an opening as a result.

Organs typically found in the abdomen, such as the intestines, stomach, liver, spleen, and colon, move into the chest through this opening. This causes the baby’s lungs to be small and underdeveloped, which makes breathing difficult. It may also prevent the heart from developing normally.

After birth, babies with CDH will need support to breathe. When they are strong enough, usually within several days, the hernia can be repaired with an operation.

Types of CDH


There are different types of congenital diaphragmatic hernias, categorized mainly by where the defect has occurred on the diaphragm. Two types of CDH are:

  • Bochdalek hernia: The opening in the diaphragm is posterolateral. This is the most common type of CDH.
  • Morgani hernia: The opening is located in the anterior and retrosternal area of the diaphragm. This type of CDH is much rarer than the Bochdalek type—it comprises only 2 to 5% of all CDHs.

Signs & Symptoms of CDH


The symptoms of a congenital diaphragmatic hernia include:

  • Abnormal chest development, with one side larger than the other
  • Caved-in abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Cyanosis (blue color of the skin due to low oxygen levels)
  • Difficulty breathing and/or fast breathing
  • Fast heart rate

What Causes CDH?


The direct cause of congenital diaphragmatic hernia is unknown. During gestation, an embryo’s diaphragm is fully formed by around 10 weeks. If this process is disrupted, a hole can form and abdominal organs can move into the chest cavity.

CDH can be associated with other congenital disabilities, often other congenital heart conditions. Up to 20% of congenital diaphragmatic hernia cases are linked to a chromosome defect or genetic syndrome. In this case, the infant may have additional health conditions.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) Care

NewYork-Presbyterian’s congenital diaphragmatic hernia program, offered at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, brings together multidisciplinary teams of experts to provide the highest level of care for children born with CDH.

With access to NewYork-Presbyterian’s vast expertise and resources, we customize a plan of care to maximize the best possible outcomes for you and your baby.