An explanation of Umbilical Hernia and treatment options.

Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia is a protrusion of abdominal contents at the umbilicus, or belly button.

It is caused by a failure of the umbilical ring to completely close over once the umbilical cord has withered away and fallen off.

Umbilical hernias occur in up to 30% of babies and young children. It affects boys and girls equally.

Once the belly button has healed, approximately 1-2 weeks after birth, an umbilical hernia is easily recognised as a lump that comes and goes at the site of the belly button. When the child is distressed for other reasons, the umbilical hernia will usually become more noticeable.

In the vast majority of children with umbilical hernias, it is easy to push the hernia back into place. They are not usually tender and do not usually cause pain or discomfort.

When does this need referral to a paediatric surgeon?

In over 90% of babies who have an umbilical hernia, the hernia will disappear within the first 12-18 months of life as the umbilical ring continues to close. If the umbilical hernia is still present at 18 months of age, it is unlikely that it will disappear of its own accord. In children who have a persistent umbilical hernia, they should be reviewed by a Paediatric Surgeon, and the treatment of choice is an operative repair of the hernia.

Does this need an operation?

Although cosmetically undesirable, it is unusual for there to be any complications. Unlike inguinal hernias, it is rare for umbilical hernias to become stuck.

Once the umbilical hernia has been repaired, it is highly unlikely that it will recur. The resulting scar will be barely visible.