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Inguinal or Groin Hernia in Children

It is one of the commonest problems requiring surgery in children. The problem is seen in about 5% of children, and in nearly 30% of premature babies. Hernia can happen at any age, but is more common in the 1st year of life, and more so in boys.

1.What is a hernia?

Hernia is a protrusion of organs or structures of the abdominal cavity into a sac formed by the inner lining membrane of the abdomen. Though the problem is also seen in adults, hernias in children differ from adult hernias both in cause and in management.

2. Why do hernias occur in children?

In children the commonest site of a hernia is the groin. The condition is called inguinal hernia. This happens due to a persistence of a communication between the abdominal cavity and a canal in the groin through which the testes and its blood vessels and tubes pass down to the scrotum. Normally, this communication is seen only in the fetus, and should close about the time of birth.

3. How would I recognize a hernia in my child?

A hernia generally presents itself as a swelling in the groin, which may extend down to the scrotum too. Sometimes, the swelling appears only when the child cries, coughs or strains. It disappears when he/she is quiet or is lying down. Occasionally, there may be pain associated with the swelling.

4. Can a hernia be dangerous?

Yes. A hernia can be dangerous at times when the abdominal contents coming out into the sac, get trapped and cannot be pushed back. This leads to a strangulating effect and can cause death of the intestinal segment, or the testes, or, rarely, the ovaries. This is more common in hernias seen in infants. For these reasons, a hernia should be operated and corrected when it is diagnosed, especially in infants.

5. Could there be any other problem associated with hernia?

In girls, a hernia might sometimes be a manifestation of a slightly more complex problem related to abnormality in gender development, requiring further evaluation.

6. What is the surgical procedure to correct hernia in children?

Hernia in children is treated by a surgery called herniotomy, wherein a 2cm skin cut is made in the groin skin crease, under anesthesia. The abnormal communication is then closed. Herniotomy is a simple surgery and is usually treated as a day care procedure where the child comes to the hospital on the morning of the surgery and is discharged by the afternoon. The child is ready to get back to normal activities such as attending school, in a couple of days.

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