What is an Umbilical Hernia Repair?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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An umbilical hernia repair is a type of surgery used to correct a specific type of hernia. A hernia is typically a weakness, or even an opening, in the tissue that holds an organ in the proper place. This tissue may be muscle or membrane. In the case of an umbilical hernia, the interior lining of the abdomen forms a sac that creates an opening in the abdominal wall. This hernia occurs in the area of the navel, or belly button.

Not all umbilical hernias require a repair. In an adult, a hernia that does not cause symptoms may simply require regular monitoring by a doctor. If the patient has an underlying medical problem that may make surgery risky, the physician may recommend avoiding it.

Hernias that become larger, or cause symptoms, will likely be treated surgically. Some possible symptoms of a worsening hernia may include pain, nausea, and vomiting. It may also cause dizziness, weakness, and abdominal swelling. If the umbilical hernia cuts off blood supply to the area, it may turn a darker color. In these circumstances, the patient should get medical treatment immediately.

Umbilical hernia repair is not typically as common for infants as it is for adults. Most infants who are born with this condition will simply need to be monitored. Often, when the child reaches three to four years of age, the hernia has resolved itself.


If the hernia causes problems, it may need to be repaired surgically. Hernias that cannot be pushed back in, and continually bulge out — as well as those that interfere with blood circulation — may require treatment. If the child is in pain, evidenced by his crying, the doctor may recommend surgery. Umbilical hernias that do not resolve themselves in a few years may also require correction.

To prepare for the umbilical hernia repair, the patient needs to disclose his full medical history, including any medications, to the doctor. He may need to stop taking certain medications for a period of time, such as those that interfere with blood clotting. The patient will need to refrain from eating or drinking for at least six hours prior to the procedure.

A doctor typically administers general anesthesia for an umbilical hernia repair. This means that the patient is unconscious and does not feel any pain. In some circumstances, the physician may recommend an epidural anesthesia instead, in which case the patient is conscious but feels no pain.

The incision required for this surgery is generally located under the patient's belly button. Once the surgeon has access to the hernia, he may decide to remove it entirely, or to push the esaped tissues back into the patient's belly. Large hernias may require synthetic mesh to close them. The surgeon then stitches the hole in the abdominal lining together, and closes the initial skin incision.

Recovering from an umbilical hernia repair often does not require overnight hospitalization. The patient should expect to refrain from strenuous activities for about two to four weeks. Pain medication can help alleviate any discomfort during the healing process.

Patients should be aware of the possible risks of an umbilical hernia repair. While any surgery can result in excessive bleeding and infection, this surgery may injure the large intestine. This complication rarely occurs. Other possible risks are reactions to the anesthesia, which may include breathing problems or heart problems. Umbilical hernias rarely return following surgery.


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