An umbilical hernia is a medical condition where a portion of the intestine or abdominal tissue protrudes through the abdominal wall near the navel (umbilicus). It appears as a bulge or swelling at or around the belly button. Umbilical hernias can vary in size, and are more commonly found in infants, although they can also affect adults. In infants, they often resolve on their own during the first few years of life, but in some cases, surgery may be required.
Surgery for an umbilical hernia is typically recommended under the following circumstances:
- The hernia causes pain or discomfort.
- The hernia becomes incarcerated (trapped) or strangulated (blood supply cut off), which can lead to serious complications.
- The hernia is very large or persists beyond the age of three to four years in children.
Before undergoing surgery for an umbilical hernia, patients (or parents/guardians in the case of children) will receive specific instructions which may include fasting guidelines, medication review, and transportation arrangements.
The surgical repair of an umbilical hernia is usually done under general anesthesia and can be performed as an open, laparoscopic, or robotic procedure. In open repair, Dr Moar will make an incision near the umbilical hernia, push the protruding tissue back into the abdomen, and then reinforce the weakened abdominal wall with sutures or a mesh. In laparoscopic or robotic repair, several small incisions are made, and a laparoscope (a thin tube with a camera) is inserted to view and repair the hernia using surgical instruments. A mesh may also be used to reinforce the abdominal wall.
After umbilical hernia surgery, postoperative guidelines may include:
- Pain Management: Prescribed pain medications to manage any discomfort.
- Wound Care: Instructions on keeping the surgical site clean and dry.
- Physical Activity: Limiting strenuous activities for a few weeks to aid the healing process.
- Diet: Gradually reintroduce regular foods as advised.
- Follow-up: Schedule follow-up appointments to monitor the healing progress.
While umbilical hernia surgery is generally safe, there are some potential risks and complications, including:
- Infection at the surgical site.
- Bleeding or hematoma formation.
- Recurrence of the hernia.
- Nerve damage, leading to numbness or altered sensation.
- Change in the shape or appearance of the umbilicus.
- Bowel injury (rare).
In some cases, small umbilical hernias may not require surgical intervention and may resolve on their own, especially in infants. However, if surgery is not recommended or desired, alternative treatments might include observation and supportive measures such as a binder or truss.
It is essential to consult a qualified healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment option based on individual circumstances and medical history.