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An umbilical hernia describes a small piece of tissue inside the abdominal cavity that pushes against the lining, poking out through the navel. This issue usually disappears on its own in children, but many adults who are affected by an umbilical hernia might choose to undergo surgery because the hernia, in older patients, rarely goes away without treatment. Umbilical hernia surgery can be advantageous because it gets rid of the pain, and it helps patients prevent complications. Just like any type of surgery, though, there are some risks, which is why some patients decide to skip any treatment if the hernia is not painful. Additionally, there is a recovery period of at least two weeks, requiring patients to take time off work or school for treatment.
Most doctors recommend umbilical hernia surgery only to patients who are in pain, especially if the hernia does not appear to be healing on its own. In such cases, treatment can be a relief, because it can be uncomfortable to wait for years in the hopes that a painful hernia will heal by itself. Some hernias are large enough to be visible to other people, which can be embarrassing and difficult to explain, in which case surgery might be an attractive option. In addition, some hernias grow larger over time and might even become strangulated, which means that the protruding tissue gets stuck bulging out. The result is often tissue death, because the blood flow is stopped entirely, in which case umbilical hernia surgery is necessary.
Treating an umbilical hernia with surgery is usually advised only when necessary, because there are some risks involved, as with any surgery. Some patients might have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia that is offered to numb the area before treatment. Common examples of such reactions include heart problems or trouble breathing during surgery. Additionally, there is the possibility that the physician will accidentally puncture the large intestine, which can be more worrisome than the umbilical hernia itself. Of course, excess bleeding and infection are risks that are possible during surgical operations, and umbilical hernia surgery is no exception.
Recovering from umbilical hernia surgery often takes two to four weeks, which means that work, school and any regular activities likely will be interrupted. During this time, patients need to protect the incision, especially when coughing, sneezing or straining. It can be difficult to monitor young patients during the recovery period, which is another reason many doctors are hesitant to perform this surgery on children — aside from the fact that most children's hernias heal on their own. Patients are advised to weigh all of the pros and cons before deciding to get surgery for an umbilical hernia.
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