an infant with umbilical hernia

Umbilical Hernia Surgery: Should You Have It?

December 1, 2019

Mothers are usually advised to pay close attention to their babies. It’s important that a mother spends enough time with her child. That way she can understand her child better. And also build a stronger relationship. Also, a mother would be able to notice any health-related issues on time. There are many conditions that develop from infancy. One of which is an umbilical hernia. But the good news is that it can be treated with umbilical hernia surgery. The earlier the better. This is why paying close attention to children is very important.


An umbilical hernia is an enlargement around the belly button. This occurs when fatty tissue or part of the bowel pushes through an area around the belly button. Umbilical hernias are most commonly seen in infants. But they also occur in adults due to some factors. We will have a look at these factors later. But first, let’s have a better understanding of what an umbilical hernia is.


What You Need to Know About Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia is an abnormal bulge around the belly button. This happens as a result of part of the intestine, fluid or even a lining of the abdomen sticking out in the abdominal muscles. It’s usually the part where the umbilical cord passed before you were born.

Research shows that 20% of babies have umbilical hernias at birth. Umbilical hernias are most common among infants but can be also seen in adults. Usually, 90% of umbilical hernias would close at the age of 5. If it doesn’t close at the age of 5 then umbilical hernia surgery might be needed.

Male and females are both affected. And there’s equal distribution in the occurrence of umbilical hernias. Low weight and also premature infants are at higher risks. Umbilical hernias are also very common among African-Americans.

Umbilical hernias present with signs and symptoms that can help you tell. They usually appear as a swelling or as a bulge. And it’s usually located around the belly button area. This bulge becomes quite noticeable when your baby laughs, coughs or even sneezes. That’s because these actions apply pressure on the abdominal muscles. On the other hand, it isn’t noticeable in some babies when they are quiet.

Not to worry, your doctor would still be able to tell if it’s an umbilical hernia. That, of course, is with an adequate physical examination.

There are times it becomes painful. That’s when it’s called incarcerated hernia. In this case, the intestines already get trapped inside the umbilical hernia. Also, the bulge might also appear red and also firm. If you notice this then urgent medical attention is needed. This is to prevent any damage to the intestine. Incarcerated hernias though are not so common.


Causes and Risk Factors

There are many causes of umbilical hernia. And there are other risk factors that increase the chances of a person having an umbilical hernia. Let’s have a look at these.

As you know, after birth the umbilical cord is no longer useful. And the opening which the umbilical cord goes through closes as a baby grows. There are times that the closure isn’t complete. And there’s a space left there. Loop of the intestine can penetrate into it, it could be fluid and this causes the bulge in umbilical hernias.

There are chronic health conditions that can raise abdominal pressure and thus leads to umbilical hernias. They include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Prolonged constipation
  • Repetitive vomiting
  • Excess fluid in the belly (ascites)
  • Difficulty in urinating as a result of an enlarged prostate


Obesity can also lead to this condition. Straining such as weight lifting and childbirth. Multiple pregnancies can also be a cause. A person who’s had previous abdominal surgery can also have umbilical hernias.

There are risk factors associated with this condition.

  • Age: Infants, are known to be at higher risk of getting an umbilical hernia. Especially preterm babies.
  • Coughing: Chronic cough is another risk factor for this condition. That’s because coughing applies a lot of pressure on the abdominal wall. And this can increase the chances of getting an umbilical hernia.
  • Obesity: People that are obese are at higher risk of having an umbilical hernia. This includes both children and adults.
  • Multiple pregnancies: When a woman carries more than one baby in her womb, the baby is at higher risk of developing an umbilical hernia.


Treatment: Umbilical Hernia Surgery

It’s not always necessary to treat umbilical surgery. Especially when it’s seen in an infant. At the age of 5, an umbilical hernia would normally resolve. But if that’s not the case then an umbilical hernia surgery might be necessary.

Umbilical hernia surgery is a small operation. And it’s also very quick. In this operation, the doctor pushes the bulge back into its place. And it also helps strengthen the abdominal wall. Most times people that undergo this surgery can go back home that same day.

A doctor can either choose to use open surgery and laparoscopic surgery. Your doctor would give general anesthesia before performing the surgery. That way you wouldn’t feel pain while the operation is being carried out.

In open surgery, the doctor would open the site and then repair the hernia. A mesh is usually used for this process. Then the muscle is being stitched together.

Laparoscopic surgery is also known as keyhole surgery. Small incisions are made instead of making a big cut. And with that, the mesh is used to remove the hernias. And then your doctor would stitch you up again.

In closing the wound, your doctor would either use dissolvable stitches or special glue. Your surgeon might apply pressure dressing on the umbilical hernia. And it remains in place for about 4-5 days.

Usually, an umbilical hernia would last for 20-30 minutes. So you wouldn’t have to stay in the hospital for days. But some children and also premature infants with other medical conditions would have to wait in the hospital for days. This is to monitor if there are any complications. Even though it isn’t common there are complications associated with umbilical hernia surgery.

umbilical hernia