There is a natural weakness in the abdominal wall behind the umbilicus, caused by the way babies develop in the womb. If the contents of the abdomen push through, this produces a lump called a hernia (see figure 1).
A hernia can be dangerous because the intestines or other structures within the abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia).
What are the benefits of surgery?
You should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent you from having any serious complications that a hernia can cause.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
In children under the age of about four, umbilical hernias tend to close on their own. For older children and adults, the hernia will not go away without an operation.
What does the operation involve?
Surgery to repair paraumbilical and umbilical hernias is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes about half an hour.
Your surgeon will make a cut around your umbilicus and remove the hernial sac. Your surgeon will close the weak spot with strong stitches or a synthetic mesh.
What complications can happen?
1. General complications of any operation
Infection in the surgical wound
2. Specific complications of this operation
Developing a lump under the wound
Injury to structures within the abdomen
Removing the umbilicus
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day or the day after. You should increase how much you walk around over the first few days after your operation.
You should be able to return to work after two to four weeks but this may vary depending on the extent of surgery and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice. Occasionally the hernia comes back.
A hernia near the umbilicus is a common condition caused by a weakness in the abdominal wall. If left untreated, a hernia near the umbilicus can occasionally cause serious complications.
Paying for your operation
Paraumbilical and umbilical hernia repair costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Author: Mr Simon Parsons DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)
Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.