Umbilical Hernia In Children

What is an umbilical hernia in children?

An umbilical hernia is a bulge through the abdominal muscles in the area of your child's navel (belly button). The hernia may contain fluid, tissue from the abdomen, or part of an organ (such as an intestine).

What causes an umbilical hernia in children?

Every child is born with a small hole in the abdominal wall for the umbilical cord. The outside of the hole heals to form your child's belly button. The inside hole in the abdominal wall should close as your child grows. An umbilical hernia forms when the hole does not heal completely or the muscles around the hole are very weak. Umbilical hernias happen most often in children who were born prematurely or had a low birth weight. They are more common in girls and in African-American babies.

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

Umbilical hernias usually do not cause any pain. Your child may have the following:

  • A bulge or swelling in the area of his navel. You may be able to see the lump, or you may feel it when you gently press on his navel.

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

How is an umbilical hernia in children diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will usually find the 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 umbilical hernia in children treated?

Many umbilical hernias in children will close on their own by age 4 or 5. If your child's hernia does not close on its own, it may need to be fixed with surgery. Your child may need surgery at an earlier age if the hernia is very large.

What are the risks of an umbilical hernia in children?

Rarely, a loop of intestine may become stuck or trapped in the hernia. This can be life-threatening. He may need emergency surgery if this happens.

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.

  • You have questions 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.

© 2013 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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