Conditions + Treatments

Inguinal Hernia

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What is a hernia?

A hernia occurs when a section of intestine or other intra-abdominal structure protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal muscles. A soft bulge is seen underneath the skin, where the hernia has occurred. 

What is an inguinal hernia?

A hernia that occurs in the groin area is called an inguinal hernia. As a male fetus grows and matures during pregnancy, the testicles develop in the abdomen and then move down into the scrotum through an area called the inguinal canal.

Shortly before the baby is born, the inguinal canal closes, preventing the testicles from moving back into the abdomen. If this area does not close off completely, a loop of intestine can move into the inguinal canal through the weakened area of the lower abdominal wall, causing a hernia.

Although girls do not have testicles, they do have an inguinal canal, so they can develop hernias in this area as well.

Who is at risk for developing a hernia?

Hernias occur more often in children who have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • a parent or sibling who had a hernia as an infant
  • developmental dysplasia of the hip
  • undescended testes
  • abnormalities of the urethra

Inguinal hernias occur:

  • in about 1 to 3 percent of all children
  • more often in premature infants
  • in boys much more frequently than girls
  • more often in the right-groin area than the left, but can also occur on both sides

Why is a hernia a concern?

Occasionally, the loop of intestine that protrudes through a hernia may become stuck and cannot return to the abdominal cavity. If the intestinal loop cannot be gently pushed back into the abdominal cavity, that section of intestine may lose its blood supply. A good blood supply is necessary for the intestine to be healthy and function properly.

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