By: Henry Chang, MD, FAAP
Everyone is born with a small opening in the abdominal muscles where the umbilical cord connects. This usually closes up on its own. When it doesn't, depending on whether it is causing problems, your child's doctor may recommend umbilical hernia surgery (herniorraphy). Here is some information about the procedure and what to expect if your child needs it.
How is umbilical hernia surgery performed in children?
Usually, a small incision is made below the belly button, and the contents within the bulge are pushed back into the belly. The hernia hole is closed using stitches. The extra skin in the belly button from the hernia is usually stitched in place and allowed to scar in place there. In children, patches or mesh are not usually used.
What happens before surgery?
You will be instructed not to give your child any solid food for 8 hours before surgery and to stop clear liquids (liquids you can see through, not formula or milk) 2 hours before surgery (ask your doctor's office for specific times).
Will my child have any pain?
Your child may have some pain where the incision was made. Some surgeons inject numbing medicine at that area to control pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen are usually enough to control the pain from an umbilical hernia surgery. Rarely, your child's surgeon may give you a prescription for stronger pain medicine to use.
How soon after surgery can I be with my child?
As soon as your child wakes up after surgery, someone from the recovery room will call you, and you will be able to be with your child again.
When can my child go home after surgery?
Umbilical hernia surgery is usually done as an outpatient, which means that your child will likely be able to go home the same day as the surgery. Rarely, an overnight stay may be required for your child's safety depending on how your child is doing after surgery or if your child has other medical issues.
How do I care for my child at home after umbilical hernia surgery?
Instructions for home will be different depending on the hospital, surgeon, age of your child, and the actual surgery. Usually, most children are able to eat regular food after surgery, return to school in 3-4 days after surgery, and return to sports in 2-4 weeks after surgery. Your child's surgeon will give you instructions specific for your child.
When should I call the office?
Bleeding or drainage from the incision
Redness around the incision
Swelling around the incision
Fever above 101° F
Less peeing or fewer
wet diapers than usual
You will receive specific instructions for follow up with the surgeon when your child goes home after surgery.
About Dr. Chang
Henry L. Chang, MD, FACS, FAAP - Section on Surgery, is a pediatric general surgeon at the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital and Tampa General Hospital in the Tampa - St. Petersburg area in Florida.