Inguinal hernia repair

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Hernias are one of the most common reasons for children to need surgery. Thankfully, the risks today are very low, and the results are excellent. Let's talk about inguinal hernia repair.

Before a baby is born, the testicles and ovaries begin life in the back of the belly. As the baby develops, the testicles or ovaries descend into their place in the body through a tube called the inguinal canal. If the canal doesn't close afterward, some of the intestines can slip through and create a bulge, or hernia, in the baby's groin.

Premature babies tend to develop hernias more than full-term babies. Boys are more likely to have hernias than girls. Hernias can also run in families, and they're often associated with other problems, like undescended testicles.

How do you know if your child has an inguinal hernia?
Parents usually notice a lump or bulge in their child's groin, scrotum, or labia during bath time or while changing a diaper. It may appear when the child cries or strains, and disappear when they are relaxed or asleep. Sometimes some of the intestine will get trapped in the hernia, causing pain. The child gets fussy and may cry inconsolably. If blood supply to the intestine is cut off, the bulge may be red and tender, and the child may have a fever and a racing heart rate.

Inguinal hernias do not go away without treatment. The good news is a simple, safe operation can close the inguinal canal. Your child will usually receive general anesthesia, and be asleep and without pain. The surgeon will make a small cut near the hernia, push the intestine back into your child's belly, and close the inguinal canal. Your child will go home the same day.

When you get your child home, don't be concerned if you notice swelling or some bruising in the area of the surgery. That's to be expected - it's normal. And you can kind of go with your child's desired level of activity for a bit. In fact, encouraging them to move some will help speed recovery, but you want to avoid really rough play or extreme activity for the first week or so until the incision begins to really repair.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/25/2011
  • Alan Greene, MD, Author and Practicing Pediatrician; also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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