Inguinal and Umbilical Hernias

Hernias are a common concern in infants and often become noticeable in the first few weeks and months of life. The type and location of a hernia determine whether hernia repair surgery is needed. If your child is referred to Duke for hernia surgery, he or she will be cared for by a team of specialists whose main concern is your child’s health and well-being.

About Inguinal and Umbilical Hernias

Hernias feel like a soft lump, bulge, or swelling under the skin in the groin or around the belly button. You may notice the swelling when your baby cries or coughs. Typically, a pediatrician will make the diagnosis during one of your baby’s checkups and refer your child to a Duke pediatric general surgeon if surgery is necessary.

Inguinal Hernia
This type of hernia occurs in the groin area and is more common in premature infants. It typically develops when the canal that connects the abdomen to the genitals doesn’t close prior to birth. Surgery is needed to repair the connection because a piece of the intestine can move into this canal and become trapped. This is a serious concern that needs prompt surgical repair, as the intestine can be cut off from the blood supply and become damaged.

Umbilical Hernia
Umbilical hernias occur around the belly button when the abdominal muscles don’t fully close following birth. Many umbilical hernias close on their own by the time a baby is 3 years old. Most umbilical hernias close on their own without surgery. Surgery may be necessary if an umbilical hernia has not closed by age 3. In rare cases, surgery may occur sooner if the intestines cannot be pushed into the abdomen. This can cut off the blood supply and damage the abdominal muscles. 


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