What is a hernia?
A hernia is the bulging of a portion of an organ through an abnormal opening. The danger from herniation arises when the organ protruding through the opening is constricted to the extent that circulation is stopped or when the protruding organ impairs the function of other structures.
What is an inguinal hernia?
Inguinal hernias account for about 80% of all hernias and are the most common surgical procedures done in infancy. These hernias appear more frequently in boys than in girls. An inguinal hernia is derived from persistence of all or part of the processus vaginalis, the tube of peritoneum that precedes the testicle into the scrotum during the eighth month of pregnancy. Following the dropping of the testicles into the scrotum, the processus vaginalis withers and closes forming the tunica vaginalis that lies below the testicles in the scrotum. When this fails to happen, fluid from the abdomen or an abdominal organ (usually the intestines) can be forced into it causing a bulging or mass that can be felt. The process vaginalis can extend only partly from the inguinal canal or extend completely into the scrotum.
How is an inguinal hernia treated?
There are usually no symptoms that a child has an inguinal hernia until abdominal organs are forced into the sac. Swelling can sometimes be seen in the groin area when a baby is crying or straining or when an older child coughs, strains or stands for a long time. If the bulging can be gently pressed back into the abdomen, the hernia is known as reducible. If a loop of the intestine is forced into the sac, the hernia is then known as incarcerated (irreducible). An infant or a child will show signs of irritability, loss of appetite, tenderness and swelling of the abdomen or have trouble having a bowel movement. With incarceration, the intestines have entered the sac and are being strangled. This portion of the intestines could die. This is life-threatening and you should call us immediately.
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.