The umbilical cord passes through a small opening in the stomach muscles and nurtures a fetus in the womb. In most cases, this opening closes after birth. In some individuals, it stays open and becomes an umbilical hernia.

What is an Umbilical Hernia?

An umbilical hernia is an opening or a weakness in the abdominal muscles at the navel. Most umbilical hernias are painless; about 90% of umbilical hernias present at birth eventually close on their own.

However, in some cases, the hernia does not close. When this happens, surgical treatment may be required.

Causes of Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical hernias are sometimes found in adults but are most common in children. Babies who are African-American, born premature or born with a low birth weight are at higher risk for an umbilical hernia. Males and females have an equal risk of developing umbilical hernias.

In adults, umbilical hernias can develop when there is too much pressure on a weaker area of the abdominal muscles. Common causes in adults include:

  • multiple pregnancies
  • gestating multiple fetuses (ie, twins or triplets)
  • being overweight or obese
  • stomach surgery
  • a persistent, heavy cough
  • the presence of fluid in the abdominal cavity

Symptoms of Umbilical Hernia

In both infants and adults, umbilical hernias can be visible as a bulge or swelling near the navel. This will be more apparent when stress is applied to the area, such as during a coughing fit, laughter or straining during a bowel movement.

Umbilical hernias can cause pain.

If they cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting or if the bulge becomes swollen, tender or discolored, this indicates that it needs immediate medical treatment.

Diagnosing Umbilical Hernias

Your doctor will perform a physical examination and will probably be able to detect the hernia by palpating the area. Imaging tests such as ultrasound or an X-ray may be performed the confirm the presence of an umbilical hernia. If the intestine is trapped in the hernia, you may have blood tests to look for infection.

Umbilical Hernia treatment

An umbilical hernia that has not spontaneously corrected itself by age four is typically repaired to avoid future complications.

Umbilical hernia repair surgery typically takes about an hour and can be performed on an outpatient basis. A small incision is made and your surgeon will push any intestinal tissue that has pushed out back through the abdominal wall. The opening is stitched closed in children. In adults, it will be reinforced with surgical mesh.

After surgery, you should limit activity for about three weeks to allow healing. Umbilical hernia surgery is a common and uncomplicated procedure. Most individuals will not experience any complications after surgery. Our doctors bring years of hernia repair experience to the task to ensure the best outcomes for you or your loved one. Umbilical hernias rarely recur after being closed.

Getting hernia surgery sooner instead of waiting can cut your chances of complications such as strangulation. By choosing the time you have your hernia repaired, you can ensure that you are treated by surgeons you trust in a setting that is relaxing and professional. We have surgical centers throughout the area to ensure you can get the procedure you need in a place that is convenient for you.