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Umbilical hernia


Disease: Umbilical hernia Umbilical hernia
Category: Surgical diseases

Disease Definition:

Umbilical hernia is a common and usually harmless condition, in which a baby’s bellybutton sticks out when he/she cries.


In case there’s a weak spot in the abdominal muscles of a baby and part of the intestine sticks out through it, umbilical hernia occurs. Although this condition may affect adults, but it’s most common in infants. 


By the age of 1, most umbilical hernias close on their own; however, 10% percent of the cases may take longer time to heal. Surgical repair will be required in case an umbilical hernia appears during adulthood or if it doesn’t heal by the age of 4.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


A soft bulge that ranges about 1 to 5 centimeters (one-half to about two inches) in diameter near the navel (umbilicus) is the most prominent sign of an umbilical hernia.


In case a baby has an umbilical hernia, only when he/she cries, strains or coughs will the bulge be noticeable. When the baby is calm or lies on his or her back, the bulge won’t be apparent anymore.


When an umbilical hernia occurs during adulthood, it may end up causing abdominal discomfort; however, the ones that appear during childhood usually don’t cause pain.


During pregnancy, through a small opening in the abdominal muscles of the baby passes the umbilical cord. Before birth, this opening usually closes. However, if the muscles don’t meet together completely in the midline, an umbilical hernia may result either at birth or later in life due to this weakness in the abdominal wall.


Other than excessive abdominal pressure in adults, some of the things that may contribute to the development of an umbilical hernia include:

  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Obesity
  • Ascites, which is the presence of fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • Coughing
  • Heavy lifting


Umbilical hernias occur in boys and girls equally. In most cases, this condition develops in infants, particularly babies with low birth weights and premature babies. However, black infants are a little more likely to develop this condition.



In some rare cases, the protruding abdominal tissue becomes trapped or incarcerated and cannot be pushed back into the abdominal cavity. This complication may lead to umbilical pain and tissue damage because the blood supply to the section of trapped intestine will be reduced. Incarceration or obstruction of the intestines occurs in adults more commonly and requires emergency surgery.


During a physical exam, the bulge may be pushed back into the abdomen. Usually, large or painful umbilical hernias, hernias that don’t disappear by the age of 4, those that get bigger after the age of 1 or 2, or become trapped or block the intestines will require surgery.


In the case of adults, if the umbilical hernia gets bigger or becomes painful, surgery will be recommended to avoid possible complications.


A small incision will be made at the base of the bellybutton during surgery, the herniated tissue will be returned to the abdominal cavity and the opening in the abdominal wall will be stitched close. An umbilical hernia usually doesn’t recur. In most cases, after a few hours of the surgery the patient may leave the hospital and resume activities within two to four weeks.


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