Umbilical Hernia Surgery

When fatty tissue pushes through weak spots in the abdominal wall near the bellybutton, it is called an umbilical hernia. Most of the time, these are painless. You may feel a lump near your navel which expands when you use your abdominal muscles to perform tasks such as laughing, coughing, crying, or going to the bathroom. It may also decrease in size when you lie down or relax.

It is a very common occurrence in infants which heals itself by the child's first birthday. However, it can develop in adults and get worse over time if not treated properly. If it gets severe enough, you may need umbilical hernia surgery to repair your muscle tissue.

When Is Umbilical Hernia Surgery Needed?

Surgery for umbilical hernia is used to push the bulge back and make the abdominal wall that is weak stronger. The surgery is normally followed by therapy to help increase the strength of the abdominal wall.

Your child's pediatrician may suggest surgery if the hernia has not healed itself by your child's fifth birthday or if it is really large. Most doctors wait until this age because there may not be any complications before then. It is very uncommon for complications to arise or for the hernia to remain after the age of five.

On the other hand, a doctor may suggest that an adult with an umbilical hernia receive surgical treatment right away. This is due to the fact that it most likely will not heal on its own, leading to multiple complications.

Possible Complication If Left Untreated

The two main complications which can occur due to an umbilical hernia are obstruction and strangulation.

  • Obstruction occurs when bowel is stuck outside of the abdomen. Common recognizable symptoms are nausea, vomiting, and severe pain.
  • Strangulation occurs when a section of the bowel is trapped, causing the blood supply to be cut off. In this situation emergency surgery will be scheduled within the next couple of hours. It is vital that the blood supply can be returned to the trapped tissue before it dies.

How Is Umbilical Hernia Surgery Done?

Umbilical hernia surgery will help to prevent any serious damage or complications. However, the hernia still has a chance of returning.

Before the Procedure

There are two main forms of surgery prep before the surgery actually begins. However, prior to either form of preparation your doctor will give you a few things to do before the day of the surgery.

Three to four days before your surgery, stop taking any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the risk of excess bleeding during the procedure. You will also be asked to fast about 6 hours prior to the official surgery.

On the day of the surgery, you will either be given general anesthesia or have a spinal block. If you have the anesthesia you will be asleep during the surgery and not feel any pain. On the other hand, if you have a spinal block you will not feel any pain, but you will be awake.

During the Procedure

You and your surgeon will decide upon the best method for the best results. You may either choose an open surgery or a laparoscopic surgery.

  • Open surgeryis done by making an incision below the bellybutton which allows the surgeon to work on your abdomen.
  • Laparoscopic surgery is done by making only a keyhole incision at the hernia site so that a thin and flexible tube can be inserted. This tube is the laparoscope, which allows your doctor to see inside the abdominal cavity using a video. The surgeon will then use his/her tools inside the keyhole incisions to repair the abdomen.

Whichever surgery is decided, the surgeon will do the same repair procedure. Your surgeon will push the abdominal lining and the intestine that is bulging back through the hole in the abdominal wall. Stitches will then be used to close the hole and some synthetic mesh will be added to strengthen the abdominal wall.

Will There Be Any Risks with the Surgery?

It is very uncommon to have any complications due to umbilical hernia surgery, however the wound may become infected, the hernia may return, or you may feel sick and have numbness around the area for a few hours following the operation.

You may also notice a small change in your bellybutton after the surgery.

Umbilical Hernia Repair Recovery Time

It is very common that patients return to their normal activities within 2-4 weeks following their surgery.

Immediately following your umbilical hernia surgery, you will be moved to a recovery room as you regain your consciousness after surgery. The medical staff will be monitoring your vital signs for the next couple of hours. The majority of patients are outpatients, which means you get to leave the same day you have the surgery.

Things to Keep in Mind

At first you may notice a bit of tenderness and bruising; however, it will go away within the first week. There are a few things that your doctor will recommend as at home care for a complete recovery:

  • Over time you will be able to resume your normal activities without any residual pain. After the first couple of weeks you will be able to begin light exercises such as walking, but you do have to wait about four weeks before beginning strenuous activities or lifting heavy weights.
  • Use painkillers to help aid in relieving any residual discomfort. Children can be given paracetamol and ibuprofen. However, please keep in mind that children under the age of 16 must not use aspirin.
  • Wear loose clothing to reduce excess pain.
  • Use soap and water to gently and effectively clean the area as instructed by the nurse before leaving the hospital.
  • Try to avoid straining when using the toilet as it may result in great pain around the wound. Drink lots of fluids and eat a healthy diet including fruits, vegetables and foods rich in fiber such as whole meal bread, pasta and brown rice to reduce your chance of constipation.
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