Hernias happen when part of an organ or tissue in the body (such as a loop of intestine)
pushes through an opening or weak spot in a muscle wall. It can push into a space
where it doesn't belong. This causes a bulge or lump.
How Do Hernias Happen?
Hernias are fairly common in kids. Babies, especially
preemies, can be born with
Some babies are born with small openings inside the body that will close at some
point. Nearby tissues can squeeze into such openings and become hernias. Unlike hernias
seen in adults, these areas are not always considered a weakness in the muscle wall,
but a normal area that has not yet closed.
Sometimes tissues can squeeze through muscle wall openings that are only meant
for arteries or other tissues. In other cases, strains or injuries create a weak spot
in the muscle wall. Then, part of a nearby organ can push into the weak spot so that
it bulges and becomes a hernia.
Hernia repair is the one of the most common surgeries kids have. It's important
to know the signs of a hernia so your child gets the right medical care.
What Are the Types of Hernias?
There are different types of hernias, and each needs different levels of medical
Most hernias in kids are either inguinal hernias
in the groin area or umbilical hernias in the belly-button area.
An inguinal hernia
happens when part of the intestines pushes through an opening in the lower part of
the abdomen called the inguinal (IN-gwuh-nul) canal. Instead of closing tightly, the
canal leaves a space for the intestines to slide into.
Doctors fix inguinal hernias with surgery.
An umbilical hernia
happens when part of a child's intestines bulges through the abdominal wall inside
the belly button. It shows up as a bump under the belly button. The hernia isn't painful
and most don't cause any problems.
Most umbilical (um-BILL-ih-kul) hernias closes up on their own by the time the
child turns 4 or 5. If a hernia doesn't go away by then or causes problems, doctors
may recommend surgery.
An epigastric hernia
is when part of the intestines pushes through the abdominal muscles between the belly
button and the chest.
Many epigastric (eh-pih-GAS-trik) hernias are small, cause no symptoms, and don't
need treatment. Larger ones that do cause symptoms won't heal on their own, but surgery
can fix the problem.
Other types of hernias — like hiatal hernias, femoral hernias, and incisional
hernias — usually happen in older people, not kids.