In some people, some parts of the intestine push against an abdominal wall or muscles that are weak. The pushed internal parts create soft lumps or bulges under the skin called hernias.
Especially in children, one of these two locations is where a hernia frequently occurs:
- The groin area — it is known as an inguinal hernia.
- Around the belly button — it is known as an umbilical hernia.
What causes a hernia in a child?
The development of a hernia is commonly seen in a baby during the first few months after birth. As discussed, this is due to weakness in the muscles of their belly. The cause of Inguinal and umbilical hernias is slightly different.
The inguinal hernia normally occurs between the abdomen and thigh in the groin area. When it comes to boys, swelling in the scrotum can be seen. This doesn’t mean girls don’t get inguinal hernia because they don’t have testicles. They are also born with an inguinal canal and are at risk of inguinal hernias.
Inguinal hernias are present at birth in 3-5% of healthy, full-term infants. The incidence is significantly higher ( up to 30% ) in preterm babies.
During the baby’s growth in the mother’s womb, all babies develop the inguinal canal, including girls. This extends from the stomach to the genital area. This canal in boys allows the testicles to travel from the abdomen to the scrotum, which holds the testicles.
Most of the time, this inguinal canal ceases in all babies shortly before or after birth. However, in certain cases, the inguinal canal does not completely close. This creates a channel between the stomach and the inguinal canal where the parts of the intestine or an ovary might be trapped in the gap. When this occurs, something (fluid, intestinal parts, or other tissues) that should remain safely behind the stomach may come through and invade the groin area. This results in an inguinal hernia and is often seen in boys.
Treatment options for inguinal hernias
An inguinal hernia must be repaired surgically to prevent complications. The treatment for inguinal hernia depends on many factors, which include the age of a child, overall health, the type of hernia and whether it is reducible (can be pushed back) or not, and how your child responds to a specific medication or procedure.
During the hernia repair surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision near the bulge, and the hernia’s contents protruding out are placed back into the abdomen cavity. The inguinal tunnel, through which the abdominal organs (hernia) protrude, is sealed off.
This is another most common type of hernia in newborn children. During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is attached to the abdominal cavity of the baby through a small hole. After the baby is born, this will usually close up. Suppose the abdominal wall of the developing baby does not completely close around the umbilical cord (belly button). In that case, some intestinal parts protrude through the opening and may develop into an umbilical hernia.
An umbilical hernia is often caused due to the anxiety of mothers. However, in most cases, umbilical hernias are benign and may not require treatment.
There is a 10% to 20% chance of all newborn children developing umbilical hernias. Children with low birth weights and premature infants are vulnerable to this condition. Both boys and girls are at equal risk of this umbilical hernia.
Treatment for Umbilical Hernia
In most cases, umbilical hernias disappear as the child reaches the age of 3 or 4 years. If it does not close, surgery is recommended by the doctor in such cases. Surgical repair may also be advised for younger kids in case of incarceration or if the hernia becomes large.
Under general anesthesia, surgery is performed to repair the hernia. At the bottom of the belly button, a small incision is made to start the procedure. The intestinal parts bulged out as the hernia is pushed back in place and sealed off. Multiple layers of stitches are used to seal the muscle opening to prevent a recurrence of the hernia. The belly button is kept flat by using a dressing or incision glue.
Most children can go home following surgery after a few hours of observation. However, some premature newborns and kids with specific medical issues might need to stay in the hospital for upto 24 hrs for observation.
It is unlikely that the hernia will recur once it has been closed. But, children who suffer wound infections after surgery or damage to the incisional area are at an increased risk of recurrence. If left untreated, hernias can lead to severe health complications in children. So if your child has any unpleasant bumps or bulges in the groin area or near the belly button, don’t hesitate to consult an expert. To know more about treatment, consult Dr. V Pareek, one of the best doctors for hernia treatment in Hyderabad. He is a renowned laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon in Hyderabad. For treatment, call +91 91-777-77715 and book your appointment with the doctor.