What is an umbilical hernia?
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.
What are the symptoms of umbilical hernia?
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.
What is the treatment for umbilical hernia?
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.
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This information, although based on a thorough knowledge and careful review of current medical literature, is the opinion of doctors at The University of Texas Medical School and is presented to inform you about surgical conditions. It is not meant to contradict any information you may receive from your personal physician and should not be used to make decisions about surgical treatment. If you have any questions about the information above or your child's care, please contact our doctors.