Umbilical hernia

Umbilical hernia is common in newborns and sometimes also observed in adults.

Umbilical hernia is evident as a bulge at the navel or umbilicus (belly button). Abdominal muscles in fetuses and newborn babies have a small opening to allow umbilical cord to pass through. This opening closes off and the abdominal walls are fully repaired by the age of 2 or 5 as the baby grows. About 20% of newborns are born with an umbilical hernia, which naturally goes away as the child grows up and the abdominal walls are repaired. However, in many cases it doesn’t get fully repaired and develops into hernia that needs correction. Umbilical hernias that do not resolve by themselves by the age of two need surgical correction.

In adults, umbilical hernia may occur at the weak spot in unrepaired abdominal wall that will need surgical repair. When an umbilical hernia occurs, the hernia sac mostly holds peritoneal fat tissue, fluids or a part of small intestine. Multiple pregnancies, obesity, abdominal surgeries etc. are some of the factors that may predispose a person to developing umbilical hernia.

Beyond an age of two, umbilical hernias do not close on their own leaving no option for their repair but surgery! Surgical repair of umbilical hernia is common and very well established! A minimally invasive surgery to repair the abdominal wall at the site of hernia works very well.


  1. Understanding umbilical hernia

 Generally, umbilical hernias are more common in women. Pain in the abdomen is the most common indication of umbilical hernia. It is caused due to a common defect in closure of a small opening in the abdomen, at the site of belly button from where umbilical cord passes. In adults, herniation occurs when there is an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. This could be due to obesity, multiple pregnancies in women or even abdominal tumor. As a result, fat tissues, fluids or parts of small intestine push through the opening in the abdominal wall resulting in hernia. The umbilical hernia typically has a narrow neck and bigger mass in hernia sac. This is why strangulation is common and surgical repair is highly recommended.


  1. When umbilical hernia is something to worry about

While in newborns and young children, umbilical hernia repairs itself until the age of two to five, it might not always be the case. An umbilical hernia is present as a small, soft bulge near the navel, about 1-5 cm in diameter. It is not normally painful but may lead to certain complications over time. If the bulge swells up more than normal and becomes painful in addition to causing vomiting in the infant or adult, it is time to get it treated.

Some major risks associated with umbilical hernias include strangulation or a part of intestine in the hernia leading to tissue death. In such a case, there is a high risk of gangrene or life-threatening infection and must be treated immediately. Intestines trapped in the hernia sac also affect the intestinal movement or peristalsis required for digestion and may lead to bigger complications.

Many physicians actually recommend early treatment as compared to waiting until there is a problem. Surgery is the only definitive treatment for umbilical hernia and is a quick and well-established procedure today.


  1. Umbilical hernia correction

 While in majority cases of umbilical hernia in infants, the hernia closes by itself until the age of 5, persisting hernia require surgical repair. In adults, umbilical hernia can only be corrected by surgery. It is a quick process and is done usually by minimally invasive techniques. Generally, the patients get back home the very day of surgery when minimally invasive procedure is used!

Surgical umbilical hernia repair is achieved by:

  • Open surgery: The conventional open umbilical hernia repair is done under general anesthesia. The surgeon makes a long incision near the belly button and pushes the protruding tissue back in position. The abdominal wall is then repaired or strengthened by use of mesh or just simple suturing for smaller defects. Mesh repair is a better technique as it reduces the chances of recurrence of the hernia. Open repair of umbilical hernia requires hospital admission of about a week and recovery time is longer. It may take about two months to completely return to normal routine.
  • Laparoscopic hernia repair: A smaller and quicker procedure for umbilical hernia repair is the minimally invasive laparoscopic technique. In this kind of procedure, the surgeon makes one to two keyhole incisions under the belly button and pushes the protruding tissue in hernia sac back in place. The abdominal opening is then covered with a synthetic mesh to avoid hernia from developing again. There are dissolvable stitches and special glues now available for closure of the wound.

 Laparoscopic surgery now enables patients to recover faster than before and return to routine within two weeks. Some precautions may be needed to be taken like not lifting heavy weights or performing certain exercises. Most patients recover fully in a month or two.

Plan your surgery with a good surgeon. There are wonderful options in short surgery centers like AB Hospitals that employ expert surgeons in their panel and have highly experienced healthcare personnel. This ensures that the surgery is quick and recovery is faster. Such centers also perform day surgeries for umbilical hernia requiring no hospital admission. Opting for short surgery centers like AB Hospitals is great for an elective umbilical hernia repair!