Inguinal Hernia

What is an inguinal hernia?

A hernia means there is an opening in the abdominal muscle. A soft bulge may be seen underneath the skin where the hernia has occurred, or fluid may fill the scrotum (hydrocele). A hernia that occurs in the groin area is called an inguinal hernia.

What causes an inguinal hernia?

As a male fetus grows and matures during pregnancy, the testicles develop in the abdomen and then move down into the scrotum through an area called the inguinal canal. Usually the inquinal canal closes, preventing the testicles from moving back into the abdomen. If this area does not close off completely, then fluid can drain into the scrotum (hydrocele), or if the canal enlarges, a piece of intestine can slide down.

Although girls do not have testicles, they do have an inguinal canal, so they can develop hernias in this area as well.

Who is at risk for developing a hernia?

Hernias occur more often in children who have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • a parent or sibling who had a hernia as an infant
  • prematurity developmental dysplasia of the hip
  • undescended testes
  • abnormalities of the urethra

Who is affected by inguinal hernias?

Inguinal hernias occur:

  • in about 1/100 of all children.
  • more often in premature infants.
  • in boys much more frequently than in girls.