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Pediatric Hernia Surgery: Inguinal (Groin) Hernia Repair

A groin hernia is when a small sac of intestine or fat pokes through a weak area of muscle into the lower abdomen. The weak area of muscle is formed that way before birth. The sac is formed by tissue that lines the abdomen. This kind of hernia usually happens on one side of the groin. It is felt as a bulge under the skin.

Groin hernias are common in children. They happen most often in boys. They do not go away on their own. If left untreated, the hernia can cause a serious problem. Groin hernias in children can be repaired with surgery in about 1 hour. Most children go home the same day and get better quickly.

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Questions You May Have

It’s normal to have concerns about your child’s surgery. Here are answers to some common questions:

  • Is surgery safe? Yes. Complications from hernia surgery are rare. In fact, most children get back to their normal life in a short time.

  • Will my child be in pain during surgery? No. Your child will be given medications that make him or her sleep during surgery. Some mild discomfort after the surgery is normal.

  • Is surgery always needed?Yes. If a groin hernia is not treated, part of the intestine can become trapped or “strangulated.” This means the blood to that part of the intestine is cut off. It is a medical emergency and needs treatment right away. Having repair surgery will prevent this problem from happening.

Preparing Your Child for Surgery

Follow your doctor’s advice to help get your child ready for surgery. You may be asked to:

  • Tell the doctor about any medications your child takes. These include children’s pain relievers, vitamins, and other supplements.

  • Come with your child to tests. These may include urine and blood tests.

  • Not let your child eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery.

Closeup of male baby's lower abdomen showing incision location in groin.

The Day of Surgery

Your child will be given an IV to provide fluids and medications. You’ll then meet with the anesthesiologist. He or she will talk with you about the anesthesia used to prevent pain during surgery. The surgery may be done with laparoscopic surgery. This uses 2 or 3 tiny incisions and a small tool called a laparoscope. Or it may be done with open surgery. This is done through one larger incision. The doctor will talk with you about which method is best for your child.

 

During the Surgery

The surgery takes about 1 hour. With laparoscopy, several tiny incisions are made in the lower abdomen. One of the incisions may be in the belly button area. The laparoscope is often put through this incision. This lets the doctor see the area to work on. Small tools are put through the other incisions. With open surgery, a single larger incision is made in the lower abdomen. The doctor sees and works through this incision.

The small sac of intestine or fat is gently pushed back into place. The muscles in the area are tightened with sutures, also called stitches. In some cases, a small piece of mesh is put over the muscles. This helps make the area stronger. The doctor may also check to see if another hernia is on the other side of the groin. If there is one, another incision may be made for it to be repaired. When the surgery is done, the incision or incisions are then closed with sutures, glue, or special tape. A bandage is put over the area.

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Your Child’s Recovery

Your child can likely go home the same day as the surgery. Once at home, give your child pain relievers as instructed. Care for the incision area and bandage as advised. A small amount of swelling and bruising is normal and will go away in a short time. Do not let your child bathe until the doctor says it’s OK, usually 2 days after surgery. Have your child rest as needed. Most children can go back to normal activity in a couple of days. To help speed recovery, encourage your child to move around. If you have questions or concerns, talk with the doctor during follow-up visits.

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Risks and Complications

Hernia surgery for children is safe, but does have some risks. These include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Numbness or pain in the groin or leg

  • Inability to urinate

  • Risk the hernia will recur

  • Bowel or bladder injury

  • Damage to the testicles or ovaries

  • Anesthesia risks

 

 

When to Call the Doctor

After surgery, call the doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • A large amount of swelling or bruising

  • Fever over 101°F (38.3°C)

  • Increasing redness or drainage of the incision

  • Bleeding

  • Increasing pain

  • Nausea or vomiting

 

 

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