An umbilical hernia operation is a surgical procedure that repairs an umbilical hernia issue. A hernia is a protrusion that usually appears in the abdomen. The bulging effect is due to the intestines or bowels trying to push their way out of the abdominal walls via the weak spots. Although commonly seen in newborns, an umbilical hernia can be present in both children and adults.
A condition called strangulation can develop in adults if the umbilical hernias grow. When the flow of blood to various parts of the body is blocked, strangulation occurs. Its symptoms will include severe pain, nausea, and vomiting. The region affected usually appears blue. You are, therefore, advised to contact your doctor if you feel that strangulation has occurred or about to occur.
Causes of an Umbilical Hernia
A baby's umbilical cord passes through a small opening in their abdominal muscles near the navel. After birth, the opening closes. However, in some situations, the muscles fail to completely close. A weak spot is then created in the abdominal wall. When a fatty tissue forces its way through the soft spot, umbilical hernia develops.
The common factors associated with an umbilical hernia include:
- obesity or being overweight
- straining to lift or move heavy objects
- having a persistent cough
- having several or multiple pregnancies such as having twins or triplets
Why is the umbilical hernia surgery performed?
Usually, surgery is not always necessary. However, it will be recommended if an individual's hernia becomes severe. Some of the reasons why surgery is recommended include:
- painful umbilical hernia
- the umbilical hernia has grown to a length larger than half an inch
- its size is capable of causing a disfigurement
An umbilical hernia is usually seen in newborns. However, it tends to heal on its own without having to undergo surgery. An operation will be recommended if:
- after 3-4 years, the hernia has not disappeared
- the condition is restricting the flow of blood and is painful
In adults, an umbilical hernia happens due to:
- a fluid-filled abdominal cavity
- a history of an abdominal surgery in the past
- chronic peritoneal dialysis
Most of the adults who are affected by the condition are overweight. In adults, an umbilical hernia will not go away on its own as in the case of children. When left untreated, it often grows bigger in size, requiring the need for an operation.
Risks Associated with Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery
The complications or risks that are associated with umbilical hernias are rare. Nevertheless, if you have other severe medical conditions, complications can occur. Consult your doctor for more information about the risks of developing an umbilical hernia from another type of illness.
The common risks include:
- blood clotting
- damage occurring to the small intestines
- an allergic reaction due to the type of anesthetic applied
How to Prepare for an Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery
An umbilical hernia repair is typically carried out under general anesthesia. It means that you will be unconscious during the operation and will not feel any pain. In certain cases, a spinal block will be administered to repair the hernias. However, you will be conscious all throughout the procedure. Anesthesia will only be administered to numb the surgical area.
Some days before the surgery, you will be required to refrain from taking anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin. Not taking these medications will minimize the risk of excessive bleeding during surgery. Fasting is another standard requirement for at least six hours before the surgery.
What happens during the procedure?
An open hernia and a laparoscopic hernia are the two procedures that can be performed. During an open hernia procedure, an incision or cut is made below the belly button to access a hernia. On the other hand, a laparoscopy will be a less invasive surgery. In a laparoscopic hernia, the doctor makes several small cuts in your lower belly. A laparoscope (a thin tube with a front camera) will then be inserted into the incision.
The images that the laparoscope captures will be relayed onto a video monitor, allowing your doctor to observe the contents of the abdominal cavity in real time.
One similar thing about these two operations is the procedure itself. The surgeon will push the bulging intestine together with the abdominal lining back through a hole entering the abdominal wall. The hole will then be closed. In some cases, a synthetic mesh is to be inserted to provide strength in the abdominal region.
How long will it take to recover from an umbilical hernia repair surgery?
After the procedure, you will be placed in a recovery room where you will stay for a while. Here, the health staff will monitor your breathing and vital signs, together with your blood pressure and heart rate. Umbilical hernia repair surgery is mostly outpatient in nature, so you will likely be discharged on the same day after the procedure.
The physician will prescribe pain medications and relay necessary instructions to ensure that your stitches are dry. A follow-up check with the doctor will be scheduled two to four weeks after the surgery. Although rare, there is still a possibility for another umbilical hernia to develop. That is why scheduled checkups are very important. Doctors can monitor the result of the operation and your healing process through checkups.
Key Points to Remember
- In babies, an umbilical hernia usually resolves on its own without treatment.
- An umbilical hernia surgery may be performed in both children and adults.
- Hernias can grow to a bigger size if left untreated.
- Surgery is frequently recommended as it inhibits the occurrence of strangulation from hernias. Strangulation occurs when a portion of the small intestine becomes trapped in the hernial sac and blocks the supply of blood, causing tissue death.
- Surgery may be postponed for months in some individuals. Others may not need surgery at all. If you are asymptomatic or when the symptoms do not affect you, your physician will only recommend that you watch out for any symptoms that may arise.
When is it safe to delay surgery?
The probability of surgery may be postponed if the doctor is certain about the following:
- one's hernia is also small
- there are no symptoms of a hernia or when the existing symptoms don’t seem to bother you
- hernia can go away on its own when you lie down or it can be moved back into the abdomen.
If it fails to be pushed back, then surgery might be needed sooner.
Furthermore, surgery might be put off if:
- you are experiencing other medical problems
- you are pregnant
Aside from surgery, there are no other available options for the treatment of an umbilical hernia. You will only need to monitor it. In children, it may go away, but if surgery is required, it will have to be delayed for up to seven years. Surgery is commonly recommended to avoid strangulation.
Aftercare from surgery will depend on the following factors:
- surgery invasiveness
- anesthesia use
- age of the patient
- medical condition
You are required to follow your doctor’s instructions to ensure a smooth recovery. Never fail to go for the scheduled checkups and take the prescribed medications.