Wed, 12 Mar 2003

Hernia in kids heal spontaneously

Dear Dr. Donya,

My four-month-old son has recently been diagnosed with an umbilical hernia.

Can you please explain what is it and does it require surgery? Thank you for your kindness.

-- Gina

Dear Gina,

An umbilical hernia is a hernia (rupture) located in the area of the navel. It appears as a soft swelling (out-pouching). This type of hernia is quite common in newborns and young children. Most heal spontaneously and don't recur in adult life. For children, most do not require surgery. But it is different in adults.

In adults, umbilical hernias are more common in women, especially during pregnancy. Umbilical hernias in adults cause problems when the hernia traps some of the abdominal contents, especially fat or intestine. This may impair blood supply to the trapped tissue, which can lead to tissue damage. When the hernia traps fat, it may cause pain. When the hernia traps intestine, it may cause abdominal cramps.

Adults typically need surgery to repair the hernia. Left untreated, a hernia may not go away on its own and may get larger. Emergency surgery for an umbilical hernia is needed if there are any signs and symptoms of bowel obstruction, such as abdominal cramps or bloating, and vomiting.

-- Dr. Donya