A hernia is when an organ within the abdominal cavity breaks through a weakness in the abdominal wall. This can happen to adults from straining during lifting weights, for example. But the most common type of surgical problem experienced by children is a specific kind of hernia involving the groin. An inguinal hernia occurs when the intestines or fluid make their way through the inguinal opening into the groin area.
The inguinal opening is present in the womb during development, but the opening is meant to close by the time the baby is born. The opening is there to allow the testes to descend through for boys and for a smaller part of the girls’ reproductive structure to descend for females. Because the boys have a larger opening to make room for the testes, most of the problems with infants whose inguinal opening has not properly closed are males. In fact, 90% of those with inguinal hernias are male.
If the opening is smaller, nothing may come through and it may not be discovered until later in childhood. But an inguinal hernia will not heal itself and does need to be treated. Larger openings will allow the intestines to come through and create a bulge in the lower abdomen that will be more noticeable during strain. Usually, the opening allows the intestines to come through and then slide back out as the child moves, making it not very painful.
In more serious cases, the intestines can become trapped in the inguinal opening. If an emergency surgery is not done, this could lead to permanent damage to the intestines as they are choked off. The only treatment available for an inguinal hernia is surgery. The surgeon must remove the intestines from the hole and seal the opening so the hernia will not recur. The surgery itself is a fairly short – usually done in under an hour. The child will need to be given an anesthetic that leaves them unconscious during the procedure. There do not tend to be problems with recovery or complications after the inguinal opening is closed.
An inguinal hernia may be a fairly common problem for newborns, but left untreated it can cause very serious problems. It is important to have any protrusions in the abdomen inspected by a pediatric urologist in case an inguinal hernia is present. Associated Urologists of North Carolina have offices in Raleigh, Brier Creek, Apex, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Wake Forest, Clayton, Dunn, Clinton and have successfully performed many surgeries on infants suffering from inguinal hernias. To set up an appointment today, please call 919-758-8677.