A hernia occurs when a part of the intestine pushes through a
weakness in the belly (abdominal) muscles. A soft bulge shows up under the skin where
the hernia is. A hernia in the groin area is called an inguinal hernia.
A hernia can develop in the first few months after a baby is born. It happens because of a weakness in the abdomen muscles. Straining and crying don’t cause hernias. But the increased pressure in the belly can make a hernia more easily seen.
As a male baby grows during pregnancy, the testicles develop in the abdomen. Then they move down into the scrotum through the inguinal canal. Shortly after the baby is born, the inguinal canal closes. This stops the testicles from moving back into the abdomen. If this area does not fully close, a part of the intestine can move into the canal through the weakened area of the lower belly wall. This causes a hernia.
In some cases, the part of intestine that pushes through a hernia may become stuck. It is no longer reducible. This means it can’t be gently pushed back into the belly. When this happens, that part of the intestine may not get enough blood. A good blood supply is needed for the intestine to be healthy and to work the right way.
Although girls don’t have testicles, they do have an inguinal canal. So they can also have hernias in the groin.
Hernias happen more often in babies who are born early. They are also more common in children who have:
Inguinal hernias look like a bulge or swelling in the groin or scrotum. You may be able to see the swelling more easily when the baby cries. It may get smaller or go away when the baby relaxes. If your child’s healthcare provider gently pushes on this bulge when your child is calm and lying down, it will usually get smaller or go back into the belly.
If the hernia can’t be pushed back into the belly, the loop of intestine may be stuck in the weakened part of abdominal muscle. If that happens, symptoms may include:
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
To diagnose a hernia, your child’s healthcare provider will do a physical exam. He or she will check if the hernia can be pushed back into the abdomen (reducible).
Treatment will depend on your
child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the
Your child will need surgery for an
inguinal hernia. The surgery will happen fairly soon after the hernia is found. That’s
because the intestine can become stuck in the inguinal canal. When this happens, the
blood supply to the intestine can be cut off. The intestine can then become damaged.
Surgery is usually done before this damage can occur.
During surgery for a hernia, your
child will be given medicine to put him or her to sleep (anesthesia).The surgeon makes a
small cut (incision) in the area of the hernia. The surgeon puts the loop of intestine
back into the abdominal area. He or she stitches the muscles together. Sometimes, a
piece of meshed material is used to help strengthen the area where the muscles are
Complications of an inguinal hernia include:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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