An umbilical hernia in children (umbilical hernia) is the swelling of the baby's navel due to the non-closure of the umbilical cord area in infants after birth. Hence, the intestines exit from the abdomen, and a hernia occurs.
Umbilical hernia in children is a common condition (one of the most common hernias in children) that affects 20% of infants under six months. We notice that the navel bulges in the child when crying, which worries parents and prompts them to take their child to the doctor directly.
Umbilical hernia in children is a benign condition in most cases and goes away within a few years, but sometimes severe complications may occur that require immediate surgical treatment. Follow along with us to know when your child's umbilical hernia is a benign condition that heals with time and when children's umbilical hernia should be treated as soon as possible.
What is umbilical hernia in children?
An umbilical hernia in children is the occurrence of an infant's navel when crying or defecating without causing any pain or symptoms in the child. Most infant umbilical hernias heal by the time they are 4 or 5 years old.
If the umbilical hernia does not heal or new symptoms appear, the parents must rush to the pediatrician to evaluate the infant and decide on the appropriate treatment.
Causes of umbilical hernia in infants
The fetus is nourished in its mother’s womb through the umbilical cord, which transports oxygen and nutrients to it, withdraws waste from its body, and secures a way for excretion. This cord enters the fetus’s abdomen through an opening in the muscles of the abdominal wall (the umbilical ring). Sometimes it does not close entirely in children, and an umbilical hernia occurs.
The fatty tissue herniates through the umbilical hole in the abdominal wall, and part of the intestine may also come out, causing swelling in the infant’s navel at the site of the hernia, significantly when pressure increases within the abdomen (crying, defecation, standing, coughing, and stress).
This condition is most common in premature babies (the baby born before the end of pregnancy is more likely to be affected), where the umbilical ring does not close entirely, and an umbilical hernia occurs in babies. This is one of the most important causes of umbilical hernia in newborns and navel bulging (navel protrusion).
Symptoms of umbilical hernia in children
Umbilical hernia in children is observed, as mentioned above, in the form of a cystic bulge in the place of the umbilical hernia that appears when crying or increasing pressure in the abdomen (the formation of umbilical hernia in newborns is the swelling of the infant’s navel when crying) and disappears if the child lies down and relaxes, which is a classic sign of hernia, which is Painless in most cases. (might happen Umbilical hernia in women Adult men are less common than children, as it causes pain and some digestive symptoms sometimes in them).
Symptoms of umbilical hernia strangulation
Suppose various symptoms appear in the umbilical hernia, such as pain or vomiting and a change in the color of the swelling at the navel. In that case, the child must be rushed to the specialist doctor immediately for fear of severe complications due to the blockage of the intestinal loop in the neck of the umbilical hernia in the abdomen and the interruption of its blood supply.
Diagnosis of umbilical hernia in children
An umbilical hernia is diagnosed in a child by clinical examination. The doctor notices cystic swelling in the navel when the infant cries and this swelling disappears when he is resting.
The doctor tries to push back this hernia gently. If he can push it back, the hernia is reducible and not strangulated (the intestine is not trapped in the neck of the hernia). The condition here is benign and may heal over time without surgical intervention.
Suppose the doctor cannot push back the umbilical hernia in the child and finds resistance during that. In that case, the umbilical hernia in the child is a strangulated hernia, where an intestinal loop is stuck in the neck of the hernia.
This is a severe condition, as the blood supply to the intestines may be cut off, and the color of the umbilical hernia may change, which leads to vomiting in the child, and his general condition is not good. Immediate surgical intervention is required here to prevent serious, life-threatening complications.
Treatment of umbilical hernia in children
Umbilical hernia treatment differs from one patient to another, as we may need surgical intervention in some cases; in other cases, it is helpful to watch and wait, as the umbilical hernia may heal without surgery.
If resorting to a surgical solution, the operation may be performed using open surgery or an endoscope due to the surgeon's skill and the available equipment and supplies in the hospital.
Umbilical hernia treatment without surgery
It is recommended to wait and watch in children with an umbilical hernia, as it is preferable to treat umbilical hernia without resorting to surgery in infants and young children up to the age of 4 or 5 years due to the possibility of the hernia healing on its own and not the need for surgical intervention.
When do we treat umbilical hernia in children with surgery?
Surgical treatment of umbilical hernia in children is done in critical cases in which the child cannot be left without treatment. Otherwise, severe life-threatening complications would occur. Among the most important indications for umbilical hernia surgery in children are the following:
- The persistent umbilical hernia in the child until the age of 4 or 5 years
- Strangulation of the umbilical hernia (i.e., the bowel is confined to the neck of the umbilical hernia in the abdomen and its inability to return to its place with its blood supply affected)
- The size of the hernia bulge is more than 1.5 cm in children over two years old
- The hernia causes symptoms in the child (pain at the hernia site or digestive symptoms such as vomiting)
- A change in the color of the skin in the area of the umbilical hernia (may be an indication of a lack of blood supply to the intestine)
Umbilical hernia operation in children in Türkiye
An umbilical hernia is treated with surgery in the event of complications. The umbilical hernia operation usually takes 20-30 minutes and is performed by open surgery or laparoscopy. This is due to the surgeon's skill and the hospital's development in which the operation is performed. Our center will guide you to the best hospitals and the most skilled surgeons in Türkiye.
Before the umbilical hernia operation
Since the operation will be performed using general anesthesia, the child must fast from food and drink for a certain period determined by the doctor to avoid complications during the operation.
during the umbilical hernia operation
First, the child will be given general anesthesia to sleep peacefully. The surgeon then puts the parts stuck within the hernia back into their place (either laparoscopically or through open surgery); after that, he strengthens the muscles of the abdominal wall by placing absorbable beads and sutures, sometimes a mesh is placed in the place of the hernia that supports the abdominal wall more to ensure that the umbilical hernia does not relapse and occur again ( Umbilical hernia operation with mesh), after which the surgeon closes the operation site, thus completing the treatment of umbilical hernia in children.
After umbilical hernia surgery in children
After the effect of the anesthesia wears off, the child can go home on the same day of the operation, but the doctor recommends that he remain at rest and not make any effort for several days. The return to school is also delayed until the wound has healed well. The child may feel a little pain at the operation site in the first days after that, and it is managed with painkillers.
Complications are very rare as they are safe operations, although they may occur occasionally. The most important of these complications are:
- Operation site infection
- Fever and vomiting
- Recurrence of bulging and umbilical hernia in children
Umbilical hernia in young infants is bulging the child's navel area (the protrusion of the infant's navel in the abdomen). This relatively common condition usually heals independently with the child's age. The hernia is monitored until the age of five, and if it does not heal on its own or if the hernia shows symptoms in a child before This age must then be treated surgically to avoid the risks that may result from it.