What is a hernia?
A hernia occurs when a section of intestine protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal muscles. A soft bulge is seen underneath the skin where the hernia has occurred. A hernia that occurs in the groin area is called an inguinal hernia.
What causes a hernia?
An inguinal hernia can develop in the first few months after the baby is born because of an open channel that connects the abdominal cavity to the space that surrounds the testicle.
What is 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 after 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
- cystic fibrosis
- developmental dysplasia of the hip
- undescended testes
- abnormalities of the urethra
Inguinal hernias occur:
- in about one to three percent of all children.
- more often in premature infants.
- in boys much more frequently than in 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 can not 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.
What is the long-term outlook for this disorder?
Once the hernia is closed, either spontaneously or by surgery, it is unlikely that it will reoccur. The chance for reoccurrence of the hernia may be increased if the intestine was damaged.