Inguinal Hernia In Children

What is an inguinal hernia in children?

An inguinal hernia happens when a loop of intestine, fat, or tissue slips out of place inside your child's abdomen. It looks like a bump or bulge under the skin near your child's groin.

What causes inguinal hernias in children?

  • Inguinal hernias usually happen because of a hole or a weak area in the muscles of your child's abdominal wall. They may also happen when part of an organ, intestine, or tissue from the abdomen falls into the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal is a tube-shaped passage that goes through the wall of the lower abdomen. In boys, this passage allows the testicles to drop into the scrotum before birth. In girls, this passage contains tissue that helps hold the uterus in place. A hernia can happen if this passage does not close as it should.

  • Hernias are more common in premature infants. A child has a greater chance for a hernia if someone in his family had an inguinal hernia. Certain health problems, such as cystic fibrosis or undescended testicles, increase the risk that your child may have a hernia.

What are the signs and symptoms of an inguinal hernia in children?

  • Your child has a bulge or lump in his groin or lower abdominal area.

  • The lump may get bigger when your child cries, coughs, or strains to have a bowel movement. It may get smaller or go away when your child is relaxed.

  • Your son may have a lump or swelling in his scrotum.

How is an inguinal hernia diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver can usually tell if he has a hernia during an exam. The caregiver may check to see if the hernia can be reduced (gently pushed back into the abdomen). Your child may need tests, such as x-rays of the abdomen or an ultrasound. These tests will help caregivers decide how to treat your child's hernia.

How is an inguinal hernia treated?

Treatment depends on the type of hernia your child has, his age, and his overall health. Inguinal hernias often need to be fixed with surgery. Without surgery, hernias often get worse over time. Your child may need surgery right away if a loop of intestine has become trapped in the hernia.

What are the risks of an inguinal hernia?

A loop of intestine could become stuck in the hernia. This can cause your child's intestines to become blocked. The blood flow to the loop of intestine in the hernia could become cut off. This could cause that part of the intestine to die. This can be life-threatening.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child is crying more than normal, or he seems like he is in pain.

  • Your child is vomiting.

  • You cannot gently push your child's hernia back into his abdomen. (Do this only if a caregiver has shown you how to do it.)

  • Your child has trouble having a bowel movement.

  • Your child's abdomen seems larger, rounder, or more full than normal.

  • Your child's hernia is getting bigger, or the skin over the hernia becomes swollen or red.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child's hernia is stuck outside the abdomen and is painful, swollen, or feels hard.

  • Your child stops having bowel movements and stops passing gas.

  • Your child has blood in his bowel movement.

  • Your child's abdominal pain is bad or getting worse.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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