A hernia occurs when an organ protrudes through a weakness in the wall of the structure in which in normally resides. The most common type of hernias seen in children are umbilical and inguinal hernias. An umbilical hernia occurs when part of the intestine pushes through the belly button, while an inguinal hernia occurs when part of the intestine pushes through the abdominal wall near the groin.
An umbilical hernia often presents soon after birth, and in most cases disappears during the first two years. The most common symptom is a swelling around the navel, which may increase when your child cries, sneezes or coughs. Although umbilical hernias do not generally require surgery, a procedure may be recommended if the bulge is particularly large, the hernia complicates or if it persists after two years of age.
An inguinal hernia presents as a swelling in the groin, and often gets bigger when your child stiffens their abdominal muscles to cough, cry or sneeze. This type of hernia is more common in boys than girls. An inguinal hernia requires surgery as there is a risk of strangulation (when the blood supply is cut off from the intestine). During the surgery, Dr Thiebaut will reduce the hernia contents and obliterate the defect.
If the hernia becomes hard, painful or discoloured, it is advisable to seek medical help immediately. These symptoms may indicate a strangulated hernia, in which case surgery is urgently required.