What is an umbilical hernia?
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).
If your child has a hernia, you may notice a swelling, particularly when they cry or strain.
Umbilical hernias can be dangerous because the intestines or other structures within the abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia). Although umbilical hernias hardly ever cause these complications in childhood, they are more likely to do so in adulthood.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Your child should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent your child from having any of the serious complications that the hernia can cause in adult life.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
It is safe to see if the hernia will close without an operation. If your child is over 4 and they still have an umbilical hernia, the hernia is unlikely to close on its own.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour.
Your surgeon will make a small cut around half the umbilicus and close the opening in the tough layer of the abdominal wall with strong stitches.
What complications can happen?
1. General complications of any operation
- Infection in the surgical wound
- Unsightly scarring
2. Specific complications of this operation
- Developing a lump under the wound
- Injury to structures within the hernia
- Unsightly appearance
How soon will my child recover?
Your child should be able to go home the same day.
Your child should be able to go to school after one week but should avoid strenuous activity for six weeks.
Occasionally the hernia comes back.
An umbilical hernia is a common condition. If your child is over 4, surgery is usually recommended to prevent serious complications that can happen in adult life.
Paying for the operation
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 Jonathan Sutcliffe FRCS and Mr Shailinder Singh FRCS (Paed. 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.
Copyright © 2008 EIDO Healthcare Limited The operation and treatment information on this website is produced by EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by BMI Healthcare. The intellectual property rights to the information belong exclusively to EIDO Healthcare Limited. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.