Inguinal hernia repair surgery in children

An inguinal hernia will not go away without surgery. Most hernias in children are indirect (the abdominal tissue has bulged down the inguinal canal). These hernias need to be repaired because they are likely to become incarcerated.

Prompt surgery is needed for younger children especially, because they may not complain about pain until there is a risk of the intestine becoming tightly trapped and its blood supply being cut off (strangulation).

  • Hernias that are incarcerated, even if they can be pushed back into the abdomen, need to be repaired as soon as possible because of the risk of strangulation.
  • There is debate over when to repair hernias that are not incarcerated. The decision is based on the general health of the child and the surgeon's judgment.
  • Surgery may be delayed on premature babies with hernias that are not incarcerated. Premature babies are at risk for complications before and after surgery because their hearts and respiratory systems are not fully developed.
  • Boys who have a hydrocele and an inguinal hernia usually have both problems repaired during the same surgery.

Surgery to repair an inguinal hernia needs to be postponed in infants who have any of the following conditions:

  • Any active infection
  • A cold or other upper respiratory tract infection
  • Ear infection (otitis media)
  • Presence of a significant rash in the groin area
  • Severe heart disease present at birth

Last Updated: April 29, 2009

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