Inguinal Hernia in Infants & Children

An inguinal hernia happens near the groin area, between the belly and the thigh. With boys, you can often see a swelling in the scrotum. Does this mean girls are off the hook? Not exactly.
Although girls don’t have testicles, they do have an inguinal canal and can get hernias, too.

About 3-5% of healthy, full-term babies are born with an inguinal hernia. In premature infants, the incidence is substantially increased―up to 30%!

If an inguinal hernia is not treated, it can cause serious problems. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of this condition and what to expect if your child needs hernia repair surgery.

What is an inguinal hernia?
The story of the inguinal hernia begins during a baby’s development. When a baby boy is growing in the womb, the testicles first grow in his belly. As he develops, his testicles travel down a tunnel into
the scrotum. (This tunnel also exists in baby girls). Occasionally, the tunnel (called processus vaginalis) does not close, leaving an opening from the belly into the inguinal canal where a piece of bowel
or an ovary can become trapped.

When this happens, what should stay safely behind the abdomen can pass through and enter the groin – fluid, intestines, or other tissues. To avoid potential complications, inguinal hernias require
surgery to repair.

How is an inguinal hernia treated?
Surgery is needed to fix the inguinal hernia. Once a hernia is noticed, your doctor will refer your child to see a pediatric surgeon or a pediatric urologist for the procedure. Surgery will be scheduled to
close the tunnel. The timing of the surgery depends the severity of the symptoms and the type of hernia. An incarcerated hernia needs to be taken care of immediately.

What type of surgery is done?
In hernia repair surgery, a small incision is typically made near the bulge and the contents of the hernia are pushed back into the abdomen. The inguinal tunnel where the organs are exiting
rom the belly (hernia) is closed.

If a laparoscopic (scope) approach is used: Small cuts are made on the belly allowing the scope and instruments to be inserted to see and repair the hernia.

If bowel is trapped in the hernia (incarcerated or strangulated): The surgeon will first ensure that the blood supply to the bowel has not been cut off for too long. If it has, a small piece of bowel
may need to be removed and the bowel sewn back together.

This surgery generally takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour.