- Adults: Umbilical Hernias are most common in women during and after pregnancy, and in people who are overweight. An Umbilical Hernia is not dangerous in itself, but there is a risk that it will get trapped (incarcerated). This can cut off the blood supply to the contents of the hernia, causing life-threatening conditions such as gangrene or peritonitis (if this happens, the hernia is said to be strangulated). If it’s not treated, your hernia is likely to get larger and become more uncomfortable. In most cases, an Umbilical Hernia repair operation is recommended.
- Children: Umbilical Hernias are fairly common. A hernia at birth will push the belly button out. It shows more when a baby cries because the pressure from crying makes the hernia bulge out more. In infants, the problem is not usually treated with surgery. Most of the time, the Umbilical Hernia shrinks and closes on its own by the time a child are 3 or 4 years old. Umbilical Hernia repair may be needed in children for these reasons:
- The Umbilical Hernia is painful and stuck in the bulging position.
- Blood supply is affected.
- The Umbilical Hernia has not closed by age 5 or 6.
- The defect is very large or unacceptable to parents because of how it makes their child look. Even in these cases, the doctor may suggest waiting until your child is 5 or 6 to see if the hernia closes on its own.
Preparation for an Umbilical Hernia Surgery
Umbilical Hernia surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia. You will be asleep and will not experience any pain. Some small hernias can be repaired with a spinal block instead. In this case, you will be awake, but will be entirely numb at the surgery site. Preoperative preparation includes:
- Blood work, and a medical evaluation
- Several days before the surgery, you will need to stop taking nonsteroid anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen. This will reduce your risk of bleeding during the procedure.
- After midnight the night before the operation, you should not eat or drink anything except medications that your surgeon has told you to take with a sip of water the morning of the surgery.
Procedure for Umbilical Hernia Surgery
Umbilical Hernia repair can be performed in two different ways. During a conventional open surgery, the surgeon makes an incision below your belly button to access the hernia. Alternatively, a less invasive procedure called laparoscopic surgery can be performed, in which the surgeon makes several smaller incisions around the hernia site. A thin, flexible tube with a light on the end is inserted into one of the holes. This instrument is called a laparoscope, and it allows your doctor to see the inside of your abdominal cavity on a video screen. Your surgeon inserts surgical instruments into the other keyhole-size holes in your abdomen to repair the hernia. Regardless of the surgery type, the actual repair process remains the same. The surgeon gently pushes the bulging intestine and abdominal lining back through the hole in the abdominal wall. Stitches close the hole in the wall. Sometimes a synthetic mesh material is used in adults to make the area stronger.
Recovering from an Umbilical Hernia Surgery Repair
Following the operation, you will be transferred to the recovery room where you will be monitored for 1-2 hours until you are fully awake. Once you are awake and able to walk, you will be sent home. With any hernia operation, you can expect some soreness during the first 24 to 72 hours. You are encouraged to be up and about the day after surgery. You will probably get back to your normal activities within a short amount of time. These activities include showering, driving, walking up stairs, light lifting, and working.
Umbilical Hernia Risk Factors
The possible complications of any operation include:
- An unexpected reaction to the anesthetic
- Excessive bleeding
- Developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, DVT).
- Damage to other organs in the abdomen – this is more likely if the operation is done using keyhole surgery and further surgery may be needed to repair any damage
- Pain or numbness in the lower abdomen – this may last several months
- Re-occurrence – it’s possible the Umbilical Hernia may re-occur.