Umbilical Hernia

What is Umbilical Hernia? 

An umbilical hernia is a type of hernia that, as its name suggests, forms in the navel. It occurs when the opening in the belly through which the umbilical cord passes closes completely, causing the intestine to exit in the form of a lump. It is not a severe problem, but it can cause pain when performing specific activities of daily living.

In children, this type of hernia often disappears on its own after a while; however, in adulthood, it is necessary to resort to surgery.

In extreme cases, an incarcerated hernia occurs, which is when the intestine that forms the hernia does not return to the belly, causing its obstruction. In this case, you should see an emergency doctor.

Diagnosis of Umbilical Hernia

In the first consultation, the doctor will examine the affected area, in addition to also exploring those areas where the patient feels discomfort and pain.

Sometimes, it will be necessary to carry out diagnostic imaging tests, such as an  Axial Tomography (CAT)  or an ultrasound, for a complete diagnosis. The treatment will depend on the diagnosis made by the doctor, but in most cases, it is treated by surgery.

Causes of Umbilical hernia

When an umbilical hernia appears in adulthood, it can be for several reasons, being in the case of women more likely to occur after pregnancy. In men, the most common is to exert too much pressure on the abdominal wall. Other main reasons are:

  • Overweight
  • Constipation
  • multiple pregnancies
  • Respiratory diseases (chronic cough, asthma)
  • Ascites, when fluid forms in the abdominal cavity
  • Long-term peritoneal dialysis

We differentiate two types of causes:

Acquired: overexertion carrying weight on the abdomen, constipation, weakness of the abdominal wall.

Congenital:  peritoneum-vaginal duct persistence

Umbilical hernia in children

Various causes can affect the formation of a hernia, including if your baby has gas, constipation, coughs or cries frequently. These causes have in common the exertion at an early age when the opening through which the blood vessels of the abdominal wall pass may have been completely closed.

Despite suffering from them, there are very infrequently symptoms of pain in children; in addition, hernias caused in the navel usually close by themselves after one or two years. If it reaches a more significant size from one year to the next and has not closed, you should see your paediatrician again for a check-up..

hernias in adults

Unlike in children, hernias in adulthood do have symptoms and cause pain and discomfort in the abdominal area. That is why in most cases, they need surgery. If you do not have symptoms of pain, the surgery can wait a while, but when the signs of the hernia appear, it is advisable not to stay and go to a medical appointment for diagnosis since they tend to grow, and when enlargement occurs, the hernia itself can get stuck inside the hole causing loss of blood supply. When this happens, the doctor will indicate that surgery should be performed.

incarcerated hernia symptoms

  • Hard and painful lump
  • severe abdominal pain
  • Difficulty going to the bathroom
  • groin pain
  • Inability to pass gas
  • vomiting

Umbilical hernia treatment

In most cases, the diagnosis is accessible in the consultation, and the definitive treatment is surgery. It is important to note that a hernia tends to grow, so if time passes and surgery is not performed, this can lead to complications such as bowel obstruction in extreme cases.

Benefits of Umbilical Hernia Surgery

Undergoing umbilical hernia surgery will improve your quality of life by eliminating the symptoms of pain and discomfort, allowing you to lead an everyday life again.

Umbilical Hernia Surgery

The surgery used to repair an umbilical hernia is called a hernioplasty and requires general anaesthesia. If the hernia is not very large, the surgeon may decide to use epidural or local anaesthesia so that you do not have to be put to sleep.

To begin the intervention, a surgical incision is made below the navel. The hernia is located, and the surrounding tissues are separated. To finish introducing the intestine that protrudes into the abdomen. Once the operation is completed, the wound is sutured with solid stitches. If the surgeon considers it, before closing, a mesh can be placed in the weak area to prevent the hernia from recurring.

Umbilical Hernia Surgery Duration

The duration of this operation is from 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the patient’s characteristics.

There are two techniques for umbilical hernia repair:

Laparoscopy: It is a minimally invasive surgical technique, allowing the patient to return to their everyday life in a much shorter time than open surgery. The scar that remains after the operation is much smaller, the risk of blood loss is lower, and post-surgery pain is more bearable because the wound is more minor.

The technique consists of inflating the abdomen with air, thus allowing better manipulation of the tissues. A tiny camera allows the surgeon to introduce other probes to perform the surgical act and sew after finishing.

In cases of Bilateral or Femoral Hernia, it is preferable to resort to the Laparoscopy technique.

Open Surgery: This is the most traditional technique, in which the surgeon makes a small cut in the groin area. During the intervention, a mesh is placed, thus avoiding the future formation of hernias in that same place.

This surgery is performed in cases where the hernia is too large or if surgeries have previously been performed in the same area to be treated.

The decision on the technique will be made by the surgeon and the patient in the consultation, in which the doctor will explain to the patient the benefits and advantages of each method, being the final decision for the patient due to the economic costs that must decide. The laparoscopy technique has a higher price than open surgery due to the method applied.

Postoperative and recovery time after umbilical hernia surgery

The surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis, so it does not require the patient to stay overnight in the hospital. In some cases where the repair has been more complicated, a short hospital stay may be necessary, although this is not normal. The patient can perform any regular activity in about 2 or 4 weeks. During the weeks of recovery, the patient is recommended to avoid making significant physical efforts.

Possible risks and side effects of umbilical hernia surgery

  • Infection
  • problems with anaesthesia
  • small intestine injury
  • The risks of umbilical hernia surgery are very low unless the person has other, more severe health problems. However, some of the dangers that can be suffered are some bleeding or infection, that the hernia reappears or very rarely that the small or large intestine is injured.

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