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Inguinal Hernia in Children

Inguinal Hernia in Children

What is an inguinal hernia in children?

A hernia occurs when a part of the intestine or other abdominal tissue pushes through a weakness in the belly (abdominal) muscles. A soft bulge shows up under the skin where the hernia is. A hernia in the groin area is called an inguinal hernia.

How to say it

ING-gwihn-uhl HER-nee-uh

What causes an inguinal hernia in a child?

A hernia can develop in the first few months after a baby is born. It happens because of a weakness in the abdomen muscles. Straining and crying don’t cause hernias. But the increased pressure in the belly can make a hernia more easily seen.

As a male baby grows during pregnancy, the testicles develop in the abdomen. Then they move down into the scrotum through the inguinal canal. Shortly after the baby is born, the inguinal canal closes. This stops the testicles from moving back into the abdomen. If this area does not fully close, a part of the intestine can move into the canal through the weakened area of the lower belly wall. This causes a hernia.

In some cases, the part of intestine that pushes through a hernia may become stuck. It is no longer reducible. This means it can’t be gently pushed back into the belly. When this happens, that part of the intestine may not get enough blood. A good blood supply is needed for the intestine to be healthy and to work the right way.

Girls don’t have testicles. But they do have an inguinal canal. So they can also have hernias in the groin.

Which children are at risk for an inguinal hernia?

Hernias happen more often in babies who are born early. They are also more common in children who have:

  • A parent or sibling who had a hernia as an infant

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Developmental dysplasia of the hip

  • Undescended testes

  • Problems with the urethra

What are the symptoms of an inguinal hernia in a child?

Inguinal hernias look like a bulge or swelling in the groin or scrotum. You may be able to see the swelling more easily when the baby cries. It may get smaller or go away when the baby relaxes. If your child’s healthcare provider gently pushes on this bulge when your child is calm and lying down, it will often get smaller or go back into the belly.

If the hernia can’t be pushed back into the belly, the loop of intestine may be stuck in the weakened part of abdominal muscle. If that happens, symptoms may include:

  • A full, round belly

  • Vomiting

  • Pain or fussiness

  • Redness or a color that's not normal

  • Fever

  • Firm and tender bulge

These symptoms may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is an inguinal hernia diagnosed in a child?

To diagnose a hernia, your child’s healthcare provider will do a physical exam. They will check if the hernia can be pushed back into the abdomen (reducible).

How is an inguinal hernia treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Your child will need surgery for an inguinal hernia. The surgery will happen fairly soon after the hernia is found. That’s because the intestine can become stuck in the inguinal canal. When this happens, the blood supply to the intestine can be cut off. The intestine can then become damaged. Surgery is often done before this damage can occur.

During surgery for a hernia, your child will be given medicine to put them to sleep (anesthesia). The surgeon makes a small cut (incision) in the area of the hernia. The surgeon puts the loop of intestine back into the abdominal area. They stitch the muscles together. Sometimes a piece of meshed material is used to help strengthen the area where the muscles are fixed.

What are possible complications of an inguinal hernia in a child?

Complications of an inguinal hernia include:

  • Part of the intestine becoming stuck in the belly muscles

  • Lifelong (permanent) damage to the intestine because of not enough blood flow

Key points about an inguinal hernia in children

  • A hernia occurs when a part of the intestine or other abdominal tissue pushes through a weakness in the belly muscles. When that happens in the groin area, it’s called an inguinal hernia.

  • Inguinal hernias often occur in newborns.

  • Babies born early or who have a family history of hernias are more likely to develop one.

  • Inguinal hernias show up as a bulge or swelling in the groin or scrotum. Sometimes they can be pushed back into the belly.

  • Your child needs surgery to treat an inguinal hernia.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new directions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s healthcare provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Reviewed Date: 07-01-2023

Inguinal Hernia in Children
Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Dr. Rana Ammoury
Dr. Orhan Atay
Dr. Michael Konikoff
Dr. Sameer Lapsia
Dr. Michael Mendoza
Dr. Nancy Yokois
Health Tips
Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
How to Bathe Your Baby
Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome
Taking Baby's Temperature
Tips to Lower a Toddler’s Choking Risk
When Can a Child Wear Contact Lenses
Diseases & Conditions
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of a Newborn Baby’s Skull
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Assessments for Newborn Babies
Asthma in Children Index
Baby's Care After Birth
Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) in Children
Bone Marrow Transplant for Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Breast Milk Collection and Storage
Breast Milk Expression
Breastfeeding and Delayed Milk Production
Breastfeeding at Work
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Baby
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Mother
Breastfeeding Your Baby
Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby
Breastfeeding: Getting Started
Breathing Problems
Care of the Baby in the Delivery Room
Caring for Babies in the NICU
Caring for Newborn Multiples
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Common Conditions and Complications
Common Procedures
Congenital Heart Disease Index
Difficulty with Latching On or Sucking
Digestive Disorders
Ewing Sarcoma in Children
Fever in a Newborn Baby
Hearing Loss in Babies
Hearing Screening Tests for Newborns
Heart Disorders
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) in Children
High-Risk Newborn Blood Disorders
Infant Feeding Guide
Infant of a Mother with Diabetes
Infant Play
Infant Sleep
Infection in Babies
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal and Umbilical Hernias in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Keeping Your Baby Warm
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Male Conditions
Megaureter in Children
Meningitis in Children
Micropenis in Children
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Children
Neurological Disorders in the Newborn
Newborn Appearance
Newborn Babies: Getting Ready at Home
Newborn Behaviors and Activities
Newborn Complications
Newborn Crying
Newborn Health Assessment
Newborn Measurements
Newborn Reflexes
Newborn Screening Tests
Newborn Senses
Newborn Sleep Patterns
Newborn Warning Signs
Nutrition- School-Age
Osteosarcoma (Osteogenic Sarcoma) in Children
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Physical Exam of the Newborn
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children
Preparing for Your New Baby
Preparing the Family
Preparing the Infant for Surgery
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
Skin Color Changes
Sports Safety for Children
Substance Exposure
Superficial Injuries of the Face and Head- Overview
Surgery and the Breastfeeding Infant
Taking Your Baby Home from the NICU
Television and Children
The Growing Child: 1 to 3 Months
The Growing Child: 10 to 12 Months
The Growing Child: 1-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: 4 to 6 Months
The Growing Child: 7 to 9 Months
The Growing Child: Newborn
The Heart
The Kidneys
The Respiratory System in Babies
Thrush (Oral Candida Infection) in Children
Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn
Umbilical Cord Care
Vision and Hearing
When to Call Your Child's Healthcare Provider
Your Child's Asthma
Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.