Umbilical Hernia in children

What is an umbilical hernia?

This is a bulge around your child`s belly button that tends to stick out when they cry commonly referred to as mokonyo.  A hernia results out  of a gap on the abdominal wall muscles that allow the contents(intestines commonly) to stick out occasionally. Sometimes you may not see the bulge but feel it when you touch your child`s abdomen. This bulge is not caused by the way your baby`s chord was cut or clamped at birth. It is just a delay as their abdominal wall muscles develop.

What are the symptoms of a hernia?

You will see a bulge at the umbilical area whenever your child cries, coughs or strains to pass stool/poop. When he/she is relaxed it may disappear.

When should I be worried about my child`s umbilical hernia?

It is important to monitor your child`s hernia. It is generally painless and harmless unless the intestine gets trapped and cannot go back in. You can tell this immediately if:-

  • The area becomes painful
  • It may change colour
  • It will look swollen
  • The child will be in a lot of pain

Take your child to the emergency room immediately if you note this.

What is the treatment for hernias?

Most umbilical hernias don`t need any treatment and may close by the age of 2-4 years in the African child. Even if it doesn’t , it will get smaller and make surgery easier.

It is generally recommended to have a specialist paediatric surgical clinic review for your child whenever you note that they have an umbilical hernia. The surgeon may not necessarily take your child for an operation but will comprehensively  assess the type and size and give you advice that is specific to your child.

In case you are advised that your child requires an operation, they will undergo a procedure known as herniorrhaphy. The surgeon will explain the procedure in detail at your review. The procedure is undertaken when your child is asleep ( under general anaesthesia) and may stay 1-2 days for observation. Your child will then be reviewed after 2-4weeks as an outpatient at a follow-up clinic.

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