Neonatal Surgical Problems

All babies who need surgery are transferred to paediatric surgical hospitals such as Birmingham Children's Hospital. Some of the babies will come back to the Neonatal Unit after their operation.

Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate

See separate section.

Congenital Cardiac Defects

Some heart conditions need a special heart  scan (ECHO) & referral to the cardiologists for further management. These babies might need special drugs, help with breathing and transfer to a specialist hospital. On some occasions they might need operation for management of cardiac condition.

Diaphragmatic Hernia

A defect in the diaphragm which separates the lungs & the abdominal cavity. When baby is born, some of the abdominal contents like the intestines and the stomach are in the chest cavity instead of in the abdomen. The baby can have breathing problems at birth and an operation is needed to put the abdominal organs back in the right place after baby is stabilised in intensive care.

Duodenal Atresia

Part of the small bowel is very narrow and may cause a blockage. A naso/ oro-gastric tube is put into the stomach and we do an X-ray of the belly. The baby will need an operation. 

Floppy Larynx ( Laryngomalacia)

The airways around the baby's voice box are "floppy" and cause a harsh noise when baby breathes (stridor). In most babies this condition gets better on its own. A specialist doctor may have to see the baby if your baby has difficulty in breathing and poor growth along with stridor.


Baby has a defect in the abdominal wall and the abdominal contents such as intestines and stomach are exposed to the outside. This is usually picked up on antenatal scans. Baby will be assessed at birth and the exposed parts will be kept covered by a special plastic bag. Baby will need an urgent operation.

Hirschsprung's Disease

The nerve cells in the large bowel (colon) have not developed properly. Baby gets very constipated and the intestines may become blocked. A special procedure through the back passage (Rectal biopsy) and special Xrays may be needed. Later on the baby will need surgery.


Swelling in the scrotum due to extra fluid coming from the tummy. It is not painful and usually doesn't need an operation.

Hypospadias -in boys

The urethral opening is not in the normal position on the end of the penis. Baby will need an operation but it is not usually urgent. Circumcision must be avoided as the foreskin tissue may be needed for the operation.

Inguinal Hernia

Swelling in the groin due to the abdominal contents (usually a part of the gut) pushing through a weakness in the muscle wall. It can be on one or both sides and the swelling can come & go. This needs surgery at some stage as there is a risk of the gut getting trapped (strangulated) causing damage to the bowel.

Imperforate Anus

The baby does not have an opening to the back passage (anus). It could be either completely missing, or not formed properly or not in the right place. Sometimes in girls, the opening could be into the front passage. Baby will need an operation.

Intestinal Obstruction

The baby has swelling of the belly, green (bilious) vomiting, delayed passing of meconium & vomiting. The problem could be due to Meconium Ileus   where the baby's first poo is blocking the bowel and cannot come out properly. Baby may have special X rays and a rectal washout to try to clear the problem. In other conditions likeMalrotationIleal/ Colonic atresia the baby will need an operation. 

Oesophageal Atresia (OA) / Tracheoesophageal Fistula(TOF)

The baby's food pipe (Oesophagus) may not be connected to the stomach in the right way or it may even be connected to the wind pipe (Trachea). Baby will have X ray of chest and belly, after insertion of NG tube, for confirmation of diagnosis. A large bore tube will replace the NG tube to help suction secretions easily. Baby might need help with breathing. An operation will be necessary.

Omphalocele/ Exomphalos

When the abdominal contents such as the intestines and stomach are exposed in a membrane by the umbilical cord. Baby will need an operation.