Complications of an umbilical hernia in children

Most umbilical hernias in children resolve on their own or are surgically corrected by age 5.

In very rare cases, complications of an umbilical hernia develop that require immediate surgery. These complications include:

  • Incarceration or strangulation, which is when part of the intestine or abdominal tissue becomes trapped in the hernia sac. If part of the intestine is trapped, stool may not be able to pass through, and the blood supply to the trapped loop of intestine may be cut off. This can lead to gangrene, which is death and decay of the trapped tissue.
  • Rupture, when the skin over the hernia breaks open, exposing the tissue inside the hernia sac. This is extremely rare.

Symptoms of an incarcerated or strangulated umbilical hernia may include the following:

  • The doctor can't push part of the bulge back in the belly.
  • The child's belly swells (distension).
  • The child is nauseous and/or vomits.
  • The child cries or shows other evidence of pain.
  • The bulge increases in size, either gradually or suddenly.
  • The skin is red, tender, or firm over the hernia sac.

Last Updated: January 5, 2010

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