Umbilical Hernia

Picture of umbilical hernia

An umbilical hernia is a hernia that originates at the belly button which is also known as the umbilicus.

At birth the umbilical cord connects the placenta to the circulatory system of the baby. The cord passes through a natural hole in the abdominal wall. After birth the umbilical cord shrinks and disappears leaving behind the hole which it passed through. In some patients this whole does close like it is supposed to. Over time, as we age, gain weight and put stress on the hole it gets bigger and the intestines start poking out. It has then become an umbilical hernia.

Small children with an umbilical hernia usually are not treated until the age of four. Umbilical hernias are very common in children and most of these will heal. If it has not healed by the age of four it is never going to heal without surgery.

Trusses and belts do not work well for an umbilical hernia. They increase the intra–abdominal pressure which has the paradoxical effect of actually making the hernia worse. The only safe and effective treatment is surgery. Umbilical hernias tend to be caused by a small hole in the fascia. Even large hernias commonly have a small hole which can easily be repaired with a single stitch. Our preferred method for repairing an umbilical hernia is a pledgeted hernia repair. The hole can also be patched with a piece of mesh much like patching a hole in a pair of jeans. But this technique offers no advantages over a single stitch repair. Using mesh increases the cost of surgery and many patients develop chronic pain caused by having a foreign object in their body.