Umbilical Hernia Repair (child)

This document will give you information about an umbilical hernia repair. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is an umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia is caused by a weakness in the layer of muscle of the abdominal wall, just behind the umbilicus (see figure 1).


Position of an umbilical hernia

All babies have umbilical hernias when they develop in the womb. Most close in the first four years after birth.

If your child has a hernia, you may notice a swelling, particularly when they cry or strain.

Umbilical hernias can be dangerous because the intestines or other structures within the abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia). Although umbilical hernias hardly ever cause these complications in childhood, they are more likely to do so in adulthood.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your child should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent your child from having any of the serious complications that the hernia can cause in adult life.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

It is safe to see if the hernia will close without an operation.

If your child is over 4 and they still have an umbilical hernia, the hernia is unlikely to close on its own.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour.

Your surgeon will make a small cut around half the umbilicus and close the opening in the tough layer of the abdominal wall with strong stitches.

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring  

2 Specific complications

  • Developing a lump under the wound
  • Injury to structures within the hernia
  • Unsightly appearance

How soon will my child recover?

Your child should be able to go home the same day. Your child should be able to go to school after one week but should avoid strenuous activity for six weeks. Occasionally the hernia comes back.


An umbilical hernia is a common condition. If your child is over four years old, surgery is usually recommended to prevent serious complications that can happen in adult life.


Author: Mr Shailinder Singh DM FRCS (Paed. Surg.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved.

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

Copyright © 2011 EIDO Healthcare Limited

The operation and treatment information on this website is produced by EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Ramsay Health Care UK.

The intellectual property rights to the information belong exclusively to EIDO Healthcare Limited.

You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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