The aim was to describe trends in prevalence, maternal age-specific prevalence, associated anomalies, clinical outcomes and the sensitivity of antenatal diagnosis of congenital anterior abdominal wall defects (in particular gastroschisis and exomphalos). Data were identified from a population-based register of major congenital abnormalities in the Northern health region of England, the Northern Congenital Abnormality Survey (NorCAS), between 1986 and 1996. 296 cases were notified; there were 133 cases of gastroschisis, 98 exomphalos, 30 limb-body wall defects and 23 other anterior abdominal wall defects. 12 cases could not be classified. In 19 (6 per cent) the initial diagnosis was changed following case review. 30 (30.6 per cent) cases of exomphalos were associated with a chromosomal anomaly compared with 1 (0.8 per cent) case of gastroschisis. The total prevalence for the 11 years was 6.33 (95 per cent CI=5.57-7.08) per 10 000 live births, still births and terminations of pregnancy, and the overall birth prevalence was 4.30 (95 per cent CI=3.68-4.93) per 10 000 live births and still births. For gastroschisis, there was a significant increase over the study period in both the total prevalence (1.48 in 1986 to 5.29 per 10 000 in 1996; chi(2)=8.41, p=0.00433) and the birth prevalence (1.48 in 1986 to 4.72 per 10 000 in 1996; chi(2)=7.42, p=0.00644), but there was no such significant increase for exomphalos (total prevalence chi(2)=2.29, p=0.13055; birth prevalence chi(2)=0.16, p=0.69348). The maternal age-specific prevalence was highest in the 11-19 year age group for gastroschisis but in the 35-39 year age group for exomphalos. Fewer pregnancies with gastroschisis resulted in a termination and a greater proportion of cases were alive at one year compared with exomphalos. The sensitivity of abnormality detection by ultrasonography was 75 per cent and 77.3 per cent for gastroschisis and exomphalos, respectively. Antenatal diagnosis improved from 47.4 per cent during 1986-91 to 80 per cent between 1992-96 for gastroschisis (chi(2)=5.7, p=0.00169), and from 55.6 per cent to 68.8 per cent for isolated exomphalos, although this increase was not significant. Total and birth prevalence of gastroschisis increased in the Northern region between 1986 and 1996. For exomphalos, there was a trend towards an increase in total prevalence and towards a decrease in birth prevalence. This decreasing trend has been accompanied by improvements in antenatal detection and subsequent termination of cases of exomphalos associated with other anomalies.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.