Hernias (Patient Information)

What are Hernia's?
Hernias are weak areas or openings in a muscle in the belly where a portion of the intestine may go in or out. Inguinal hernias are in the groin area. Umbilical hernias are around the navel.
What causes Hernias?
An infant may have a hernia if a muscle in the belly did not close before birth. Hernias are more common in premature infants because their belly muscles are weak. They occur in both males and females.
What are the symptoms?
When an infant with a hernia cries or strains, the hernia will show up as a firm lump in the groin (or scrotum of baby boys) or around the navel. The lump will soften or go back inside the muscle wall when the baby relaxes. If a hernia gets caught on the outside of the muscle wall, the baby will have a lot of pain and may be very fussy. The hernia may be red and swollen or change colors to white or bruised-looking. The infant may vomit. If your infant's hernia gets caught outside the muscle wall and has these symptoms, the child needs to be seen by the doctor immediately.
How is a hernia diagnosed?
After your child's doctor examines and diagnoses a hernia by seeing and feeling the lump, the doctor may have a surgeon look at the hernia.
What is the treatment?
Umbilical hernias (around the navel) are usually not operated on unless they get caught outside the muscle wall. Umbilical hernias usually disappear by age 2. Belly bands or tight clothes over hernias do not help fix them. Inguinal hernias (in the groin) are usually fixed by surgery when the infant weighs enough and is healthy enough. Emergency surgery may be done to repair the hernia if it gets caught outside of the muscle wall and the doctor cannot get it back into place.