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Umbilical Hernia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

August 17, 2016

Umbilical Hernia Repair

Umbilical hernia is a commonly occurring disorder reported in 1 out of 10 infants, particularly premature births. The condition develops when a part of bowel or fatty tissue pokes through the navel or belly button, due to weak muscles. Umbilical hernia may aggravate during activities involving abdominal muscles, such as weightlifting, laughing, and even while relaxing or lying down. Many instances of umbilical hernia in children subside as they grow, as their abdominal muscles develop. Although most cases of umbilical hernia are painless and subside on their own, a few can cut off the blood supply of the intestine, which is a serious medical condition.

Delving deeper into the subject, in this blog post, we discuss the causes, risks, symptoms and treatment options for umbilical hernia.

Causes

In Children

The umbilical cord is the connecting link between the mother and the fetus. The umbilical cord passes through a small opening in the abdominal muscles of the baby, and in most cases, the opening reseals soon after the birth. However, a weak spot can remain through which a part of intestine or fatty tissue may protrude, leading to umbilical hernia.

In Adults

Muscles in the stomach area tend to weaken with age, and some may have a weak region in abdominal muscles by birth. Increase in the abdominal pressure – as in the case of pregnancy – may cause excessive pressure on fatty tissues, leading to hernia. Additionally, certain factors enhance the chances of umbilical hernia. They are:

Obesity

A person having a BMI of 40 or more is considered to be extremely obese. The condition may result in added pressure on the abdominal region, causing umbilical hernia.

Lifting Heavy Objects

Lifting heavy objects or performing strenuous exercises may impose a pressure on the belly region, thereby increasing the risk of umbilical hernia.

Ascites

Ascites is an abdominal disorder causing accumulation of tissue fluid in the abdominal cavity. Any delay in draining out the liquid increases the risk of umbilical hernia.

Chronic Cough

A persistent cough not only causes respiratory disorders, but can also contribute to umbilical hernia, due to overworked stomach muscles.

Symptoms

An umbilical hernia may be visible once the umbilical cord stump falls off. The symptoms are similar in both infants and adults. The list includes:

  • A soft bulge under the skin of belly button
  • Appearance of a bulge* near the navel while coughing or bowel movements
  • Pain or pressure in the navel area
  • Vomiting along with a bulge near belly button

(* The size of umbilical hernia may vary, but is usually no larger than 2.5 cm in diameter.)

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of umbilical hernia begins with a physical examination. If a patient is diagnosed with reducible hernia, the doctor looks for a possible solution to push back the hernia into the abdominal cavity. A hernia repair specialist may also prescribe the following medical examinations:

  • Ultrasound
  • Urinalysis
  • CT Scan
  • Blood Tests
  • Electrocardiogram (for patients above 45 years)

Treatment

According to John Hopkins Medicine, 90 percent of all umbilical hernia are self-healing, especially in infants. If, however, it doesn’t self-repair until a child turns 4 years old, medical intervention is required. Although most cases of reducible hernia can be pushed back into the abdomen; in certain cases, a part of intestine gets stuck in the hernia sac, cutting off the blood supply. Such cases call for an emergency surgery.

Carried out under general anesthesia, surgical repairs are classified into two categories:

Open Hernia Repair

In open hernia repair, the hernia repair specialist makes an incision near the hernia site and gently pushes back the bulging tissue back into the abdomen, and uses sutures or meshes to close the opening.

Suture Only Repair

Hernia sac is removed followed by sewing together the tissue along the muscle edge. Suture only process is ideal for small hernia repairs.

Open Mesh Repair

The hernia sac is removed and a mesh is placed beneath the hernia site. The mesh is then attached to the stronger muscles attached to the hernia site through sutures. The method is suitable for large hernia repairs, and has a low risk of relapse.

Laparoscopic Hernia Repair

The hernia repair surgeon makes small incisions around the hernia site, to insert ports and trocars to allow the use of surgical tools for repairing the hernia. The abdomen is inflated using carbon dioxide to make the hernia more prominent. Mesh may be sutured or fixed with tacks to the muscle around hernia site. The patient needs to refrain from edible items 6 hours before the surgery, and administer the prescribed medication to counteract post-op pain.

The Bottom Line

Umbilical hernia repair is an effective and low-risk procedure that helps eliminate the risk of hernia strangulation. As the outgrowth is often painless, many people tend to ignore the condition, which results in graver concerns. Therefore, if you or someone you know suspects an umbilical hernia, waste no time in consulting a hernia repair specialist, and Perth Surgical and Bariatrics is here to help. Our hernia repair specialists carry extensive first-hand experience in open and laparoscopic hernia repair. To book an appointment with our hernia experts, give us a call on 0893709686, or write to us at reception@perthsurgicalbariatrics.com.au.



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