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A herniated umbilical cord is a condition in which the intestines push against the abdominal wall, resulting in a small bulge around the belly button. This condition can affect adults of any age, though it is frequently present since birth, and tends to appear most often in premature newborns. It may disappear on its own, which is why treatment is often delayed in infants until they are three or four years old. In fact, it does not even require treatment unless it is painful or overly large, as it does not usually pose a danger to the health of the patient.
The intestines typically grow faster than the abdominal cavity in an unborn baby, causing them to float outside the body in the umbilical cord for a short period of time. Once there is enough room in the stomach area, they usually return to the body, and the abdominal wall closes behind them. Umbilical hernias are caused when the wall does not close completely, allowing the intestines to push against it and create a visible bulge in the stomach after the baby is born. It usually looks more obvious when the baby cries, coughs, or does anything else to strain the abdominal muscles.
In most cases, a herniated umbilical cord will close on its own within the first few years of the affected baby's life, which means that no treatment is necessary at first. If it does not close by the time the child is three years old, or it seems to get larger, surgery is often recommended. It is also advised if complications occur, such as strangulation, in which circulation to part of the intestine is cut off. The surgery involves cutting the area just below the navel and pushing the herniated tissue back. This treatment for a herniated umbilical cord usually takes less than two hours.
Adults can also get a herniated umbilical cord, though they may just be noticing it after years of having it since this defect is usually present from birth. The adults most likely to experience this problem include those who have liver disease, are overweight and have weak stomach muscles, pregnant, or have had several children. Just like in infants, the bulge created by the herniated umbilical cord often gets more obvious when the adult coughs or otherwise strains. Unfortunately, hernias do not usually close on their own when present in an adult, and they do tend to grow, which is why many adults opt for surgery to rectify it.