Diastasis recti

Definition
Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominis muscle, which covers the front surface of the abdomen.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Diastasis recti is a common and normal condition in newborns. It is seen most frequently in premature and African-American infants.

The condition is present when the sides of the abdominal muscle appear separated in the midline. A diastasis recti appears as a ridge running down the midline of the abdomen from the bottom of the breastbone to the navel.

Diastasis recti is most easily seen when an infant strains or attempts to sit up, and may not be apparent when the child is relaxed.

Symptoms

     
  • A mounded ridge in the midline of the stomach increases with straining.  
  • The ridge extends from the xiphoid (bottom of breastbone) to the navel.  
  • The abdomen appears normal when infant is on his back and relaxed.  
  • When the infant is relaxed, the edges of the rectus muscles can often be felt.

Signs and tests

Physical examination is sufficient to confirm the presence of a diastasis recti.

Treatment

In nearly all cases, no treatment is required. As the infant develops, the rectus abdominis muscles continue to grow and the diastasis recti gradually disappears. Surgical treatment may be indicated if a hernia develops and becomes trapped in the space between the muscles.

Expectations (prognosis)

The prognosis of this condition is excellent. It resolves without therapy in nearly all cases.

Complications

In general, complications only result when there is a hernia in association with diastasis recti. In that case, surgery may be necessary to correct the hernia and possibly to close the diastasis recti.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider immediately if your child with diastasis recti develops redness or pain in the abdomen, has persistent vomiting, or cries unconsolably and constantly.

Your health care provider can provide additional information about diastasis recti at a routine health maintenance visit.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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