Pediatric Digestive Health
An umbilical hernia is a small hole in the abdominal wall at the umbilicus (belly button). It is often most visible when the child cries or strains, as the pressure pushes the abdominal contents or fluid through the hole causing it to bulge. The size of the umbilical hernia is determined by feeling the opening in the abdominal muscle, not by the amount of skin protruding (or sticking) out.
Most umbilical hernias have no symptoms. Generally those concerned about the umbilical hernia are the parents and grandparents. The hernia gets tight when the child strains or cries but usually causes no pain to the child. Some parents express feelings of quilt, but should not because the cause is unknown. Incarceration (abdominal contents getting stuck in the hernia) are very rare.
Treatment of umbilical hernia is observation. More than 95% of these hernias will close by the age of 5 years. More than 90% will close by the age of 3 years. Large hernias greater than 2.5cm (1 inch) may be closed surgically due to the less likely chance they will close on their own. Once again, incarceration of these hernias is very rare. Surgical treatment is not attempted in small umbilical hernias due to the risks of anesthesia when the hernia will close on its own. We want to reassure you that we will be happy to follow the child as he/she grows to see if repair is necessary. We also want you to know that various methods of compression such as banding, tape, strapping or application of plaster have not been shown to be effective. This does not speed up closure and can cause infection and skin irritation. If the hernia is quite large or if the child is over 4-5 years old, surgery may be suggested. The operation is a same day surgery and most children do quite well afterwards.
For additional information on umbilical hernia visit the APSA Family and Parent Resource Center's page here »
University of Texas Health Science Center Professional BuildingDepartment of Pediatric Surgery6410 Fannin Street, Suite 950Houston, Texas 77030
Phone: (832) 325-7234
Office Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday-Friday except major holidays)
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