What is an Umbilical Hernia?

A hernia is a bulge formed when the internal organs of your abdominal cavity are pushed through a weakened spot in your abdominal wall. An umbilical (paraumbilical) hernia is the bulge that forms near the navel or belly button, when a part of the intestine, fat, or fluid is pushed out through a weakened muscle of the abdomen.

Causes of Umbilical Hernia

The umbilical cord passes through a space between the abdominal muscles that usually closes soon after birth. This closure may not always happen adequately resulting in a weak spot where a hernia may develop. Umbilical or paraumbilical hernias are more common in infants, especially premature babies. However, adults can also develop the condition, especially women and obese individuals. Other risk factors include previous abdominal surgery, multiple pregnancies, excess fluid in the abdomen, and a persistent cough.

Treatment of Umbilical Hernia

Small hernias that do not cause any symptoms are usually not treated but instead your doctor may follow a wait-and-watch approach. Your physician may recommend umbilical hernia repair if your hernia is enlarged (larger than half an inch) or causing severe pain and discomfort that is preventing you from functioning normally. Occasionally, umbilical hernias get trapped and strangulated, thereby cutting off the blood supply to the trapped part. This may cause death of the trapped tissue (necrosis) and result in severe complications. A trapped or strangulated umbilical hernia is considered a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery.

During an umbilical hernia repair, your surgeon pushes the hernia back into the abdomen and the weakened abdominal wall area is sewn closed or strengthened with a synthetic mesh. This is performed either through an open surgery or a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.

  • The Clementine Churchill Hospital
  • NHS Royal Free London
  • UCL
  • NHS London North West
  • Royal College of Surgeons of England