This is a protrusion or a bulge of the organs inside the abdomen through the umbilical ring, which is the tissue around the naval (belly-button). It can vary in size. An umbilical hernia happens when the abdominal wall does not completely close while the baby is growing in the uterus. This is a common problem affecting 20% of all children. Babies born with low birth weights are more likely to have an umbilical hernia.
What are the symptoms?
Most children with umbilical hernias have no symptoms. The bulge becomes more prominent when the child strains or cries but usually causes no pain or discomfort to the child. Abdominal contents getting stuck in the hernia are very rare.
What is the treatment?
Usually, no treatment is required unless the defect persists beyond the age of 2 years. In rare cases, intestines become strangulated ie. the blood supply becomes constricted and this results in a tense, shiny swelling at the naval that will not reduce in size. The child is irritable and starts vomiting. This is an emergency situation and surgery must be performed immediately.
What happens during surgery?
The hernia repair is done as day surgery. This means your child will not need to spend the night in the hospital. Your child will have general anaesthesia and will be asleep during surgery. The operation takes about 1 hour. A very small incision is made below the bellybutton, and the hole in the abdominal wall is closed. Recovery from anaesthesia takes 2 to 3 hours. Your child will be able to go home when he is fully awake, able to drink, and has normal heartbeat and breathing patterns.
What are the precautions to be taken?
Care of Incision. Your child will have a dressing covering the incision. This should remain in place until the follow-up visit in 5 to 7 days.
Pain Control. Your child may need pain medicines for the first few days after the surgery.
Activity. Children will limit their activity if they are uncomfortable. Your child should not ride on bicycles and avoid going to school for a few days.
Bathing. Do not get the wound dressing wet. Give your child sponge baths until the dressing is removed in 5 to 7 days.
Diet. Your child may eat what he desires. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids.
When should you see the doctor urgently?
If your child has pain that cannot be controlled.
Your child has fever.
Your child has bleeding from the wound.
Your child has pus draining from the wound or a large red area around the wound.