Ventral Hernia In Children

What is a ventral hernia in children?

A ventral hernia is a bulge through an abnormal opening in the wall of your child's abdominal muscles. The bulge is often part of your child's intestine, but it may also be tissue or fat. Two types of ventral hernias that occur in children are epigastric and spigelian. An epigastric hernia usually occurs above your child's belly button. A spigelian hernia is rare in children, but may occur on one side of your child's lower abdomen.

What causes a ventral hernia in children?

Your child may get a ventral hernia if he is born with weak abdominal muscles. This may happen if his abdomen muscles did not completely develop before birth. Your child may be born with a hernia or he may develop it later.

What are the signs and symptoms of a ventral hernia in children?

  • A bulge or swelling in your child's abdomen

  • A purple or blue mark on his abdomen, or redness near his belly button

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Pain in your child's abdomen that may get worse when he cries or has a bowel movement

  • Constipation or blood in your child's stool

How is a ventral hernia in children diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will look and feel for a bulge in your child's abdomen. He will ask about your child's medical history. He may also test your child's blood to find out if your child's hernia is infected. Your child may need any of the following tests:

  • CT scan: A special x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your child's body. A CT scan may help your child's caregiver see if your child has a ventral hernia. His caregiver can also see the size of your child's hernia and what is causing it. Your child's caregiver may give your child dye before the pictures are taken to see the pictures better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell the caregiver if your child is allergic to shellfish, or has other allergies or medical conditions.

  • MRI: An MRI uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to take pictures of the inside of your child's body. Caregivers may use the MRI to look at your child's brain, muscles, joints, bones, or blood vessels. Your child will need to lie still during his test. Never enter the MRI room with any metal objects. This can cause serious injury.

  • Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound is a test that is done to see inside your child's abdomen. Sound waves are used to show pictures of his hernia on a TV-like screen.

  • X-ray: Your child's caregiver may take an x-ray of his abdomen. Abdominal x-rays are pictures of the organs inside your child's abdomen.

How is a ventral hernia in children treated?

  • Hernia reduction: Your child's caregiver may be able to push your child's hernia back into his abdomen without surgery. This is called reducing a hernia.

  • Laparoscopic surgery: During laparoscopic surgery, small incisions are made in your child's abdomen. Your child's caregiver will insert a scope and other tools through these incisions and fix his hernia. A scope is a long, bendable tube with a camera at the end. After your child's hernia is fixed, your child's caregiver will then stitch up his muscles and abdomen wall. Ask your child's caregiver for more information about this procedure.

  • Open surgery: During open surgery, his caregiver will make an incision in your child's abdomen to fix his hernia. Your child's caregiver will find your child's hernia and cut open the tissue surrounding it. He may remove extra fat or tissue.

What are the risks of a ventral hernia in children?

  • Your child may have pain after surgery or get a seroma. A seroma is a pocket of fluid that may need to be removed using a needle. Your child may get an infection in his wound. He may also have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia medicine used during surgery. Your child's blood vessels may be damaged and he may bleed more than expected. Other organs in your child's abdomen may also be damaged. Your child's abdomen may swell if his caregiver pushes his hernia back into his abdomen. His bowel may also be damaged. Even with treatment, your child may get a hernia again and need surgery.

  • Without treatment, your child's hernia may become bigger or more painful. Your child may have pain that gets worse. Part of your child's bowel may be trapped or twisted and become blocked. This may stop your child from being able to have bowel movements. It may also cause decreased blood flow to your child's bowel and it may start to die. Your child may get a serious infection in his bowels or blood. This can be life-threatening.

How can I help my child prevent a ventral hernia?

  • Weight loss may help him prevent a ventral hernia if your child is overweight or obese. Ask your child's caregiver for a diet plan that is right for your child.

  • Ask your child's caregiver how to prevent constipation. This may help your child avoid straining when he has a bowel movement. Walking and other exercise can help your child have regular bowel movements. Drinking enough water and eating foods such as fruit, bran, and prune juice may also help. Caregivers may give your child fiber medicine or a stool softener to help make his bowel movements softer and more regular.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • You see or feel a bulge in your child's abdomen.

  • Your child has vomited.

  • Your child is constipated.

  • After surgery, your child has bleeding or pus from or near his wound.

  • After surgery, your child has sudden new swelling in his abdomen.

  • 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 abdomen is very hard.

  • Your child's hernia is purple or blue.

  • Your child has pain in his abdomen or back that does not go away, even after he takes pain medicine.

  • After surgery, your child has bleeding from his wound that does not stop.

  • Your child has sudden difficulty breathing.

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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