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Inguinal Hernia - What Happens

Inguinal hernias typically flatten or disappear when they are pushed gently back into place or when you lie down. Over time, hernias tend to increase in size as the abdominal muscle wall becomes weaker and more tissue bulges through.

If you can't push your hernia back into your belly, it is incarcerated. A hernia gets incarcerated when tissue moves into the sac of the hernia and fills it up. This is not necessarily an emergency.

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But if a loop of the intestine is trapped very tightly in the hernia, the blood supply to that part of the intestine can be cut off (strangulated), causing tissue to die. In a man, if tissue is trapped, the testicle and its blood vessels can also be damaged. A strangulated hernia is a medical emergency that requires immediate surgery.

In adults, a hernia that can be pushed back into the abdomen can be surgically repaired at a convenient time. This is because strangulation is rare in adults. A hernia that cannot be pushed back can be repaired when surgery is convenient unless you have increased pain, redness of the overlying skin, fever, nausea and vomiting, or abdominal bloating. If any of these symptoms occur, the hernia may need to be fixed sooner.

Inguinal hernias can come back after surgical repair. But in women it is rare for inguinal hernias to recur.

Hernias in children

Infants or children with an inguinal hernia need to have surgery as soon as possible because of the increased risk that a part of the intestine will become trapped and blood supply will be cut off, leading to tissue death.

Incarceration, when intestinal or abdominal tissue fills up the sac of a hernia, occurs in about 2 or 3 out of 10 infants younger than 6 months who have hernias. Most incarcerated hernias occur before the infant is 1 year old.1 Female infants face a higher risk of incarceration.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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