The urachus is a canal that links an unborn baby’s bladder with part of the umbilical cord. A patient’s lumen, or inner portion of the urachal canal, is usually filled in during the development of an embryo. The filled lumen typically becomes a solid cord that has no known medical function. Disorders can occur in an urachal canal, including a patent urachus and urachal cancer.
A lumen may remain open, resulting in a medical condition called a patent urachus. In some instances, infants with this condition leak urine into the hollow lumen of the urachal canal during urination. Children with an open urachal canal may have an increased risk of developing urachal cancer later in life if the defective urachal canal is not corrected. A patent urachus may increase a person’s susceptibility to urinary tract infections in some cases.
Many physicians treat a patent urachus with a surgical procedure known as patent urachus repair. A child is typically placed under general anesthesia during this type of surgery. This allows most children to have a painless experience as they sleep through the procedure. A surgeon may make a normal-sized incision or several smaller laparoscopic incisions in a child’s lower belly before he locates the urachal canal and surgically removes it. The surgeon usually finds the opening from the child’s bladder to the urachal canal and closes it to prevent further urine leakage.
Prior to a urachus repair, a doctor may have a patient undergo several tests, such as ultrasound examinations and x-rays, as part of a preparation for the surgical procedure. Physicians usually recommend that patients stop taking drugs that reduce blood-clotting ability, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, for several days prior to surgery. Many children are released from the hospital a few days after the surgery. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight a possible postoperative infection. Most children have a successful outcome after patent urachus repair surgery.
Urachal cancer is rare type of cancer of the bladder that may develop in the umbilicus, or belly button. Some patients have urachal cancer cases that do not cause symptoms, and other patients may notice blood in their urine. In some instances, physicians treat urachal cancer with chemotherapy, using special drugs to target and kill cancer cells. Doctors may also perform surgery to remove an urachal cancer tumor as well as the entire urachal canal and all or part of the bladder. Cancerous lymph nodes near the urachal canal are typically removed during cancer surgery.