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Inguinal Hernia (Child)

Overview
Causes
Symptoms
Risk Factors

Prevention
When To Seek Help
Treatment Options
Where To Seek Treatment

Singapore General Hospital
Contributed by Dept of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine

Overview

Inguinal hernia is a condition where loops of bowel protrude through a weak point in the groin area. At the seventh to eighth month of pregnancy, the testes of the baby move down into the scrotum through an area known as the inguinal canal.

After the baby is born, the inguinal canal closes to prevent the testes from moving back into the abdomen. However, if this area does not close off completely, loops of bowel can move into the same hole as testes and cause hernia. While girls do not have testes, they do have an inguinal canal and can develop hernia if the area is weakened. Inguinal hernia can occur on both sides of the groin, but more often on the right than the left.


Causes

Inguinal hernia is caused by an increased pressure within the abdomen, weakness in the abdominal wall or a combination of the two.


Symptoms

Hernias may not be obvious until after several weeks or months after birth. It appears as a swelling or bulge over the groin area or the scrotum; bigger and more noticeable when the baby is crying or straining. It becomes serious when the bulge cannot be pushed back into the abdomen; the loop of bowel stuck in the inguinal canal will lose its blood supply. Symptoms may vary for each child but common signs include a rounded or tense abdomen, vomiting, pain or fussiness, redness or discoloration and fever.


Risk Factors

Boys have a higher risk of inguinal hernia than girls. Other risk factors include premature births, family history (a parent or sibling who had hernia as an infant), other urogenital anomalies (undescended testes or abnormalities of the urethra), cystic fibrosis and developmental dysplasia of the hip.

Primary risk factors:
Gender

Secondary risk factors:
Premature births, family history, urogenital anomalies, cystic fibrosis and developmental dysplasia of the hip.


Prevention

There are no proven natural or clinically approved methods for preventing the congenital defect that may lead to an inguinal hernia.


When To Seek Help

Your child should see a doctor if he or she has a swelling or bulge over the groin area, is vomiting and has pain or fever.


Treatment Options

An operation is needed to release the loops of bowel that are stuck, before damage can occur. During the operation, the child is given anaesthesia and after the loops of bowel are placed back into the abdominal cavity, the muscles are stitched together to prevent recurrence. Sometimes, a piece of meshed material is used to strengthen the muscles.

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