Umbilical Hernia Repair

Umbilical hernia repair surgery is a procedure that fixes umbilical hernias. An umbilical hernia involves a bulge or pouch that forms in the abdomen. This type of bulge occurs when a section of the intestine or other abdominal cavity tissue pushes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall near the belly button. It can develop in young children and adults.

In rare cases, adults with umbilical hernias can develop a serious condition called strangulation. Strangulation occurs when the blood flow to the herniated tissue is suddenly cut off. This can occur in umbilical hernias that are non-reducible, or can’t be pushed back into abdominal cavity.

Symptoms of strangulation include nausea, vomiting, and severe pain. The area around the umbilical hernia might look blue, as if you have a bruise. The herniated contents could also become nonfunctional and die if they’re strangulated.

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Why is umbilical hernia repair surgery done?

Umbilical hernias don’t always require surgical repair. Surgery is needed when the hernia:

  • causes pain
  • is larger than half an inch
  • is strangulated

Umbilical hernias are fairly common among infants. The umbilical cord passes through an opening in the baby’s abdominal muscles during pregnancy. The opening usually closes right after birth. If it doesn’t close all the way, a weak spot can develop in the baby’s abdominal wall. This makes them more susceptible to an umbilical hernia.

In infants

When an umbilical hernia develops at birth, it may push the belly button out. Umbilical hernias in newborns will almost always heal without surgery. However, your doctor may recommend surgery if:

  • a hernia hasn’t gone away by age 3 or 4
  • a hernia is causing pain or restricted blood flow

In adults

Umbilical hernias in adults may occur as a result of:

  • excess fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • previous abdominal surgery
  • chronic peritoneal dialysis

They’re also common among adults who are overweight and women who were recently pregnant. Women who have had multiple pregnancies are at even greater risk for umbilical hernias.

Umbilical hernias in adults are less likely to go away on their own. They usually grow larger over time and often require surgical repair.

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What are the risks of umbilical hernia repair surgery?

The risks of umbilical hernia repair surgery are generally low. However, complications might occur if you have other serious medical conditions. Speak with your doctor if you’re concerned about having an increased risk of complications.

Other risks that are rare may include:

  • allergic reaction to anesthesia
  • blood clots
  • infection
  • injury to the small intestine or other intra-abdominal structures
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