A hernia is a protrusion of an internal organ through a weakness or abnormal opening in the muscle around it. The most-common types include inguinal hernia, incisional hernia, femoral hernia, umbilical hernia, and hiatal hernia. Each type of hernia involves the following body parts: umbilical--muscles around the navel; inguinal or femoral--connective tissue in the groin; and incisional -- muscles at the site of previous surgery.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery to repair the opening caused by weakened muscle or connective tissue.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSA lump that usually returns to its normal position with gentle pressure or by lying down.
Mild discomfort or pain at the site of the lump (sometimes).
Scrotal swelling, with or without pain.
Vomiting in young infants.
Weakness in connective tissue or a muscle wall. This may be present at birth or acquired later in life. Incisional hernias result from previous surgery.
RISK FACTORSPrematurity in infants.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
A weak area may not herniate until it ruptures with heavy lifting or straining. If your child must lift something, these are instructions on how to lift properly: Bend your knees, lift the object, and rise using your leg muscles. Keep the object close to your body. Don't lift by bending from the waist and using your back muscles to lift.
If constipation is a problem, see Constipation (in Illnesses section) for treatment.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood studies.
X-rays of the abdomen (sometimes).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSIf your child's hernia becomes strangulated (loses its blood supply), the protruding part may cause intestinal obstruction with fever, severe pain, and shock, and may require emergency surgery.
Umbilical hernias usually heal spontaneously by age 4 and rarely require surgery. Other hernias are usually curable with surgery.
For an explanation of surgery and postoperative care, see Hernia (in Illnesses section).
Whenever your child lies down prior to surgery, push the hernia gently into place if it protrudes visibly.
Don't have your child wear a hernia truss. It injures or weakens tissues, making surgery difficult or impossible.
MEDICATIONFor minor discomfort, use non-prescription drugs such as acetaminophen.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child should avoid heavy lifting -- either before or after surgery.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When surgery has healed and appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of a hernia. If the child has fever or severe pain, call immediately!