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Umbilical Hernia in Children


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Dec 2019| Content last modified Dec 2019
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What is an umbilical hernia?

A hernia is a hole or weak spot in muscles. Sometimes organs in your belly, most likely part of the intestines, push through this spot.

The umbilicus is the belly button. Some babies are born with a small opening in the belly muscles near the belly button. An umbilical hernia is when part of your child’s intestine bulges through this opening.

What are the symptoms of an umbilical hernia?

Umbilical hernias may not cause any symptoms.

They cause a soft bulge. The bulge is usually there all the time or may be there only during coughing or straining when passing stool. Sometimes, there's no bulge but the doctor can feel a hole in the muscle.

  • Umbilical hernias are very common in infants

  • Often, doctors wait for them to go away on their own—they usually close by the time a child is 5

  • Sometimes, umbilical hernias cause complications

What are the complications of umbilical hernias?

Rarely the intestine becomes trapped in the opening (incarcerated) and can't be pushed back by the doctor. The intestine's blood supply may shut off (a condition called strangulation), which is very painful and dangerous.

How to doctors treat umbilical hernias in children?

Umbilical hernias usually go away on their own by age 5. If the hernia is very big, your doctor will do surgery by age 2.

Your child will need surgery to fix the hernia if:

  • It cuts off blood supply to the intestines

  • The hernia doesn't go away on its own

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