Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is a common cause of severe respiratory distress in the newborn. However, the presentation of CDH in older children and adults is rare, and, therefore, little is known concerning its symptoms, operative management, and postoperative complications. Thirteen patients (age range: 2 months to 26 years; 5 males, 8 females) presented with CDH. Four patients had right-sided hernias, eight left-sided hernias, and one bilateral hernias. Symptoms included chronic respiratory tract infections in 6 patients, vomiting in 5, weight loss in 1, severe failure to thrive in 2, and severe respiratory distress in 3; one patient was asymptomatic. Physical signs included the absence of breathing sounds or bowel sounds in the chest in eight patients, hyperresonance in one, and cachexia in two. The diagnosis was confirmed in each patient by chest roentgenogram or gastrointestinal contrast radiograph. All patients underwent immediate repair. After reduction of the viscera, 12 of 13 patients underwent primary diaphragm repair, whereas one patient required a prosthetic diaphragm patch. Twelve of 13 patients (92%) survived. Postoperatively, 7 of the 12 survivors (58%) developed severe gastric atony, and four required further operative therapy. In contrast to newborns, CDH in the older child and adult is frequently seen on the right side, rarely presents with severe respiratory distress, and is occasionally asymptomatic. Postoperative gastric atony is a major cause of morbidity, making transabdominal repair with simultaneous pyloroplasty and/or feeding jejunostomy the preferred operative approach.
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