When a child has a hernia, part of the intestine (bowel) bulges through a weak area or gap in the muscles in the wall of the belly.
Hernias are common in children.
What is the cause?
Most hernias in children occur before birth. In some babies, some of the muscles in the belly donâ€™t completely come together before birth. This leaves a small opening below the skin.
A common area for hernias to develop in children is the belly button. This is called an umbilical hernia. A groin (inguinal) hernia occurs in the lower part of the belly, where your childâ€™s legs join the lower part of the body.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Pain or discomfort in the lower belly or groin, especially with physical activity
A lump or bulge in your childâ€™s belly that may get bigger when your child cries, coughs, or strains
If your child has a groin hernia, part of the intestines may get trapped in the gap between the muscles. This can be a serious problem because blood may not be able to get to that part of the intestines and part of the intestines may die. This can make your child very sick. Your child will need medical care right away.
How is it diagnosed?
Your childâ€™s healthcare provider will ask about your childâ€™s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the organs inside the belly
An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the organs inside the lower belly
How is it treated?
Most umbilical hernias do not need special care or treatment unless they donâ€™t go away on their own before a child is 4 to 6 years old. Large umbilical hernias or hernias where the bowel cannot be pushed back into the abdomen may need surgery.
Inguinal hernias are treated with surgery. Although the surgery to correct a hernia is relatively minor, there are some risks with using anesthesia on young babies. Ask your healthcare provider when itâ€™s best to treat the problem with surgery.
How can I take care of my child?
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your childâ€™s healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your childâ€™s test results
How long it will take your child to recover
What activities your child should avoid
How to take care of your child at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them
Make sure you know when you should bring your child back for a checkup.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-04-21 Last reviewed: 2014-04-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.