Inguinal hernia is the most common surgical problem of childhood. It results from a small sac that comes through the inguinal ring that is normally open during fetal life and closes around the time of birth. For reasons we don’t understand, it does not close in some infants. This sac then makes a pathway for abdominal organs to come through the inguinal ring into the groin. In boys, the organ is usually a loop of bowel and, in girls, it may be bowel or an ovary. In boys and girls, the hernia first appears as a bulge in the groin, and may appear and disappear, or may be present all the time. It will usually “pop out” when the child cries or strains. If only fluid comes through the inguinal ring into the sac, the problem is called a hydrocele.
Why does child need surgery?
Inguinal hernias never go away without treatment. Furthermore, if the sac is left open, a loop of bowel or other organ may become trapped or incarcerated (strangulated) in the sac. Once trapped, the organ, which comes through this very small opening, can swell and compress the blood supply that is pulled along with it. Without adequate blood supply, the organ trapped in the hernia sac can become damaged or even die. If your child has an incarcerated hernia, he or she may have a hard, red, painful lump, may vomit, may be unwilling to eat and may stop stooling. This is an emergency. If this happens, your child should be taken to your pediatrician’s office or, after hours, to the local emergency room. The pediatrician or emergency room doctors will contact us. If the hernia cannot be pushed back (reduced) into the abdominal cavity, your child will need immediate surgery.