A femoral hernia is one that occurs when tissue bulges into the upper thigh. While some produce no symptoms, all hernias can become strangulated, causing dangerous complications.

What is a Femoral Hernia?

The femoral canal is part of the sheath around the femoral artery and its associated veins and nerves.

Hernias happen when tissue from the abdomen pushes through weak areas of the muscle wall. In the case of a femoral hernia, tissue from the lower abdomen is pushed through the femoral canal into the upper thigh.

This type of hernia can be hard to diagnose. Many femoral hernias are too small to be detected during a regular physical exam, so other tests are needed. This type of hernia is uncommon, accounting for less than 5% of all hernias.

Causes of Femoral Hernia

The precise cause of femoral hernias is unknown. Some individuals are born with weaknesses of the muscle walls around the femoral canal. Others develop weaknesses in that area over time. This can be caused by physical strain on the area. Causes of that strain can include pregnancy, being overweight, chronic constipation, chronic coughing or lifting heavy weights. These hernias are more common in women than in men.

Symptoms of Femoral Hernia

Many femoral hernias cause no symptoms. They may not be detected unless they cause strangulation. Strangulated hernias happen when tissue such as the intestine push through a hernia and become stuck. Blood flow can be cut off, which can result in damage to the affected tissue. It is important for strangulated hernias to be treated immediately.

Larger femoral hernias may be noticeable because they will create a small bulge near the groin. The bulge may be more apparent and painful when you lift, strain or stand. There may be some soreness or a heavy feeling in the area.

If a hernia is obstructing the intestines, symptoms become severe. These can include severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and sudden pain in the groin. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to get emergency medical attention.

Diagnosing Femoral Hernias

A femoral hernia may be diagnosed during a physical exam. Your doctor will gently palpate the area to see if a bulge can be felt. In some cases, an ultrasound of the area may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of a femoral hernia. Other imaging tests may be able to show protruding tissue and the hole in your muscle wall.

Femoral Hernia treatment

If a femoral hernia is small and causes no symptoms, there may be no need for treatment. Your doctor may opt to monitor the situation to see if your symptoms become worse.

Medium or large femoral hernias must be surgically corrected.

Most femoral hernias are repaired with laparoscopic surgery. In some cases, however, open surgery may be a better option. If you have conditions like type 2 diabetes or other health issues, they may need to be under control before surgery can be performed.

Most hernias are repaired by implanting a piece of flexible mesh. This mesh reinforces the area where the muscle has become weak. It can close a current hernia and help prevent new ones in the future.

Having surgery before a dangerous strangulation occurs allows you to choose the time of your surgery and pick the doctor who makes you feel most comfortable.