What is an umbilical hernia?
umbilical hernia is a bulge in the abdominal wall
within the navel. The hernia sometimes contains tissue that lines the inside of
the abdomen, a loop of intestine, fat, or fluid. This tissue protrudes through
an opening or weak spot in the abdominal wall where the
umbilical cord was attached when the fetus was
developing. This weak spot forms when muscle and other tissue around the
umbilical cord do not close properly.
Umbilical hernias occur in
about 15% of all children.2 Babies who weigh less than
5.5lb at birth are
more likely to have umbilical hernias than babies who weigh more.1 Most often these smaller babies are born early (premature).
Other reports indicate that between 2% and 12% of all children have an
umbilical hernia at 1 year of age.3 An umbilical
hernia is not painful. It does not pose any health risks except for very rare
complications, such as strangulation or rupture,
Umbilical hernias almost always resolve on their own as a
child's abdominal muscles grow, but they sometimes require surgical repair.
What are the risks of surgery for an umbilical hernia?
The surgery to repair an umbilical hernia is considered a safe procedure
with relatively little risk. During the procedure, a small incision is made
just below the navel (umbilicus). Any loops of intestine and other tissue that
have protruded into the hernia sac are pushed back inside the abdomen. Then the
muscles and connective tissues of the umbilical ring are repaired, and the
incision is closed.
The procedure is done using
general anesthesia, usually on an outpatient basis
(your child will go home the same day).
Usually there is only a
small scar from the surgery, and it is often located inside the navel where it
is not noticeable. Surgery to repair a very large umbilical hernia or a
proboscoid hernia (an umbilical hernia in which a large amount of extra skin
overlies the hernia and forms a prominent protrusion on the belly) may result
in a navel that looks somewhat abnormal. In these cases, surgical techniques
can help provide a navel that looks very nearly normal.
What factors influence whether an umbilical hernia will heal on its own?
Although most umbilical hernias heal on their own, some
are more likely to require surgery, such as those that:
0.6in. or greater.
Umbilical hernias vary in size from less than
0.4in. to more than
1.6in. across. Those
that measure 0.6in.
or more are not as likely to close and heal on their own.1
- Develop after 6 months of age or become
progressively larger after 1 to 2 years of age.1
- Cause symptoms or develop
complications. Incarceration, also called
strangulation, is a major complication, because part of the intestine or
abdominal tissue becomes trapped in the hernia sac and loses its blood supply.
An extremely rare complication is when the skin over the hernia breaks open, or
ruptures, exposing the tissue inside the hernia sac.
- Remain after
your child is 5 years of age. If they have not resolved on their own by this
age, they probably will not do so.
- Are bothersome to you or your
child. Some umbilical hernias are proboscoid, which have an excess amount of
skin over the hernia. These types of hernias often look very unusual and are
more noticeable than other types of umbilical hernias.
If you need more information, see the topic
Umbilical Hernia in Children.