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What is a Hernia?

A hernia occurs where there is a weakness in the muscles and/or tissues of the abdomen. Inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia in children and is present at birth. It develops before birth, and is more common in boys, especially preemies and boys with undescended testicles. Inguinal hernias can occur in 5% of full term infants, and up to 30% of preterm infants. It is related to the path of descent of the testes into the scrotum. Females may also have inguinal hernias, but they are much less likely.

If you believe your child may be suffering from a hernia, contact UT Urology in Chattanooga TN today to schedule an appointment.

What is the Risk of a Hernia?

The risk of a hernia is that the bulging tissue can become trapped or incarcerated. This means the bulging tissue cannot be pushed back, which occurs in about 10% of pediatric inguinal hernia patients and 30% of premature infants. If not treated quickly, a strangulated hernia can lead to testicular shrinkage, loss of a testicle, or intestinal blockage. Long term complications can occur from delayed treatment. Emergency surgery is needed.

What Causes a Hernia?

The cause of a hernia is not known, but occurs due to a failure of the inguinal canal to close after testicular descent. Sometimes a hernia can appear along with an undescended testicle.

What are the Symptoms of a Hernia?

Hernia symptoms include the following:

  • A bulge in the groin is commonly seen when the child strains or cries. In boys, the scrotum or groin swells.
  • It is usually painless. However, there may be discomfort at the site of the hernia.
  • A strangulated or incarcerated hernia creates tenderness in the scrotum or groin.

How is a Hernia Diagnosed?

A hernia presents as a bulge in the groin or scrotal sac. If the swelling changes in size during the day, it may be a communicating hydrocele, which may enlarge. In a hydrocele, there is only fluid because the defect in the passage is too small to allow intestine or other abdominal contents to get trapped. A hydrocele that does not change in size may go away on its own during the first year of life.

Hernia Treatment Options

Generally, hernia treatment requires surgery in all cases. Inguinal hernias will not resolve on their own. But the timing of surgery depends on the age of the child and the severity of the hernia.

Inguinal hernia surgery is necessary in about 3 out of 100 children, and is the most common pediatric surgery. Premature infants with a hernia should have surgery before leaving the neonatal intensive care unit, because the risk of the hernia becoming incarcerated is greatest in early infancy. The type of surgery depends on many factors, including the size and location of the hernia, age, general health and the surgeon’s expertise. Discuss this with your surgeon.

Erlanger Urology pediatric urologists can help your child. They are board certified surgeons who regularly perform surgical procedures to repair hernias on babies and children.

If your child is suffering from a hernia, call our office or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.