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Umbilical Hernia - How To Manage It?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Rishavdeb Patra 89% (97 ratings)
MBBS, MS - General Surgery, MCh - Paediatric Surgery
Pediatric Surgeon, Kolkata  •  25 years experience
 Umbilical Hernia - How To Manage It?

Umbilical Hernia is a common condition in infants in which the intestine protrudes or pokes out through the abdominal muscles in the navel area, where generally the Umbilical cord is located. Umbilical Hernia is generally harmless if not sore and is evident when the bellybutton protrudes. During childhood, Umbilical Hernia closes on its own, but sometimes when it does not, it might require a surgical correction during adulthood. This condition is commonly seen in premature babies and can be diagnosed through physical examination alone.

Symptoms

Umbilical Hernia causes swelling or bulging near the navel and is generally visible under normal circumstances. However, in some cases, the protrusion occurs only when the baby strains, coughs or cries. Though this condition is painless, it can cause discomfort during adulthood. To avoid complications, it is advisable to seek professional help even if the condition initially seems harmless. There might be symptoms of pain, swelling, discoloration, and tenderness in the navel, accompanied by vomiting sometimes.

Causes

When the fetus is still unborn and in womb, the umbilical cord passes abdominal muscles of the baby through a small opening, which generally closes post birth. But in case muscles fail to completely join the midline of abdominal wall, this condition appears post birth, and sometimes later in life.

During adulthood, when there is too much pressure on the abdomen, it leads to this condition. This pressure might build up due to a number of causes like multiple pregnancies, obesity, previous abdominal surgery, ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity), and long-term dialysis for kidney function.

Complications

Complications might be caused when the protruding part of the intestine gets incarcerated or trapped and fails to push itself back into the abdominal cavity, reducing the blood supply. This leads to tissue damage and umbilical pain. If the blood supply totally fails, tissue death leads to gangrene, causing infection, and posing a life-threatening situation. In such cases, surgery might have to be performed in an emergency.

Treatment

Most of the times, abdominal tissue pushes itself back but sometimes, it has to be done by an experienced medical professional. When this cannot happen, surgery has to be performed to correct the situation. The surgery can be open or laparoscopic.

A small incision is made at the base of the bellybutton during surgery, which is a small and quick procedure. The hernia is corrected and sutures close the incision. For adults, sometimes mesh is used for strengthening the abdomen during open surgery.

Take Away

Umbilical Hernia is a condition in which the intestine or abdominal tissue protrudes through the abdominal muscles in the navel area, where generally the Umbilical cord is located. It is a harmless condition but sometimes painful. Generally, it corrects itself but when it fails to do so, corrective surgery is required which can be open or laparoscopic.

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