Hernias in children are common. They’re caused by an abdominal wall defect that is present at birth. Most often, the hernia forms in the groin or umbilical area. It can usually be felt as a bulge under the skin. Childhood hernias can be safely repaired using outpatient (same day) surgery. Best of all, most children recover quickly with only minor discomfort.
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 normal in a very 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 operation is normal.
Is surgery always needed? Umbilical hernias in infants may get better without surgery. But repairing an umbilical hernia is safer than leaving it untreated.
Follow your doctor’s advice to help get your child ready for surgery. You may be asked to:
Tell the doctor about any medicines your child takes, including children’s pain relievers.
Accompany your child during tests. These may include urine and blood tests.
Unless you’re told otherwise, don’t let your child eat or drink after midnight, the night before surgery.
You’ll meet with the anesthesiologist. He or she will talk with you about the anesthesia used to prevent pain during surgery. Your child will be given an intravenous (IV) line to provide fluids and medications. This may occur in the operating room while your child is receiving mask anesthesia so he or she sleeps during the surgery.The type of surgery your child has depends on the location of the hernia. If your child has a related problem, such as an undescended testicle, it may also be repaired at the same time as the hernia.
A semicircular incision is made under the navel. Any protruding tissue is pushed back into place and the hernia sac is removed. The abdominal wall is then closed with sutures.
Your child can likely go home the same day as surgery. Don’t worry if you notice some swelling or bruising. This is normal and should go away in a short time. To help speed recovery, encourage your child to move around. But children should avoid rough play for about a week. After that, it’s OK to let them get back to doing things they enjoy. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk with the doctor during follow-up visits.
Hernia surgery for children is safe, but does have some risks. These include:
Inability to urinate
Risk the hernia will recur
Bowel or bladder injury
No bowel movements
After surgery, call your child's healthcare provider if your child has any of the following:
A large amount of swelling or bruising
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your child's healthcare provider
Increasing redness or drainage of the incision
Nausea or vomiting