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Hernias in children are not uncommon. They’re caused by an abdominal wall defect that is present at birth. Most often, the hernia forms in the groin or umbilical area. It can usually be felt as a bulge under the skin. Childhood hernias can be safely repaired using outpatient (same day) surgery. Best of all, most children recover quickly with only minor discomfort.
It’s normal to have concerns about your child’s surgery. Here are answers to some common questions:
Is surgery safe? Yes. Complications from hernia surgery are rare. In fact, most
children get back to normal in a very short time.
Will my child be in pain during surgery? No. Your child will be given medications that make him or her sleep during surgery. Some mild discomfort after the operation is normal.
Is surgery always needed? Umbilical hernias in infants may get better without surgery. But repairing a groin hernia is safer than leaving it untreated.
Follow your doctor’s advice to help get your child ready for surgery. You may be asked to:
Tell the doctor about any medications your child takes, including children’s pain relievers.
Accompany your child during tests. These may include urine and blood tests.
Unless you’re told otherwise, don’t let your child eat or drink after midnight, the night before surgery.
Your child will be given an IV to provide fluids and medications. You’ll then meet with the anesthesiologist. He or she will talk with you about the anesthesia used to prevent pain during surgery. The type of surgery your child has depends on the location of the hernia. If your child has a related problem, such as an undescended testicle, it may also be repaired at the same time as the hernia.
An incision is made in the lower abdomen. Any protruding tissue is pushed back into place. The hernia sac is then removed and the incision closed with sutures.
Your child can likely go home the same day as surgery. Don’t worry if you notice some swelling or bruising. This is normal and should go away in a short time. To help speed recovery, encourage your child to move around. But children should avoid rough play for about a week. After that, it’s okay to let them get back to doing things they enjoy. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk with the doctor during follow-up visits.
Hernia surgery for children is safe, but does have some risks. These include:
Numbness or pain in the groin or leg
Inability to urinate
Risk the hernia will recur
Bowel or bladder injury
Damage to the testicles or ovaries
After surgery, call the doctor if your child has any of the following:
A large amount of swelling or bruising
Fever over 101°F
Increasing redness or drainage of the incision
Nausea or vomiting