Hernias in Babies & Toddlers

Parent Q&A

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  • Anyone have a recommendation for a pediatric gastroenterologist in the East Bay? Looking for someone to check out our 10-week old's belly button hernia.


    Hi! For an umbilical hernia, you'll want to see a general Pediatric surgeon, not a gastroenterologist. You didn't mention what type of insurance you have, but if you can go to UCSF Children's Hospital in Mission Bay (in SF), I highly recommend that whole practice, especially Hanmin Lee, MD or Lan Vu, MD, also Tippi Mackenzie, MD and Ben Padilla, MD. That way, if/when she needs surgical closure under anesthesia, you also get their excellent Pediatric anesthesiologists. Good luck! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Inguinal hernia in 19 month old girl

Jan 2012

hi everyone, the other evening we had a scare when my daughter (19 months old) was apparently in a lot of pain and crying inconsolably and saying ''poopoo.'' when i checked her diaper area, i saw a big bump near her groin. we took her in to urgent care and four hours later (after an ultrasound and a lot of waiting) the doctors said it's a hernia. i am wondering if anyone has experience with this at this young of an age. the doctors all said to get surgery within the next week or so. they were able to reduce it by pushing it down so it is okay right now. i have also read and heard that it does not heal on its own but i am wondering if there are more natural ways to manage it, or if surgery is the only answer. if folks have been through this or have advice, i would greatly appreciate any. thank you in advance.

My 5-year-old daughter had an inguinal hernia repair last month. First, yes, surgery is the only way to manage it and it's important to get it done soon, especially if she has already experienced pain. A hernia can quickly get worse and can even be life-threatening, so please don't put off the surgery.

That said, I totally sympathize with your fears about going through this with a young child. The anethesia part is scary (for you, not them), but the recovery is likely to be minimal. Our daughter had her surgery in the late morning and was sleepy/naseous in the afternoon (from the drugs), but was up and literally running around by the evening. She took ibuprofen for the next couple of days but that was it. Now she has a tiny scar about a half-inch long that you wouldn't notice if you didn't know it was there.

Once your surgery date is scheduled, the nurses will walk you through each step so you will know what to expect, which is really helpful. Hernia repair is the most common surgery that pediatric surgeons do, so you can be assured that your doctor will likely have a lot of experience with this.

As for this surgery being necessary at ''such a young age,'' these types of hernias are actually much more common (as I recently learned) in babies than in older kids. (Age 5 is fairly uncommon.) Also, my son had surgery (a different type) when he was 2, so I have experience going through this with both a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, and I will tell you that the experience with the 2-year-old was MUCH easier. At that age, they don't really know what is going on, aren't aware that they are ''going under,'' etc., so it's really not that scary for them. Just annoying like any routine doctor's appointment. I remember that my son was irritated at not being allowed to eat breakfast before his surgery, but other than that, he really wasn't bothered by the whole experience and has no memory of it now. Hang in there - I know it's scary but it will be OK! been there

Inguinal hernia repair is one of the most common pediatric surgeries. Usually the procedure itself takes approximately an hour, and your child will probably be ready to go home after another hour in the recovery room. Most kids of your daughter's age are back to feeling fine in 24-48 hours. The incision is small, and children heal quickly and often need only Tylenol and/ or Advil for pain for a day or two.

I believe surgical repair is the only treatment option. To delay treatment would put your child at some risk for intestinal obstruction, so I would suggest you follow the doctor's recommendation and schedule your daughter's surgery.

I would recommend any of the pediatric surgeons at Children's Hospital (Pediatric Surgical Associates 510-428-3233). All will have performed hundreds, if not thousands of inguinal hernia repairs on young children. Wherever you have the surgery done, I would suggest that it is of primary importance that your child be cared for by a board-certified pediatric anesthesiologist, not an adult anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist will be as vital to your child's well- being as the surgeon.

I hope everything goes smoothly for you and your daughter. I think it will all be easier than you anticipate. Pediatric RN

As a emergency doctor and a mother of a toddler, I would definitely go forward with the surgery if it were my daughter. You do not want the intestines to get stuck in the hernia and cause the bowel to die. This is very dangerous and potentially life threatening. An elective surgery is much safer than an emergent one for dead bowel. In a way you are lucky to have had this event. Now you can fix it before it becomes a bigger problem. Andrea

Inguinal Hernia in 2 month old

March 2008

My two-month old has an inguinal hernia, and will need surgery at some point. Do you have any thoughts for us about this surgery, esp. in a newborn? We are nervous about anesthesia for such a little guy. We are at Kaiser Oakland, and would appreicate also knowing about any ''good'' pediatric anesthesiologists there that you are aware of, or where we might go for a second opinion. Thanks. Sara

My son just had hernia repair surgery at Children's hospital last month. He was born 2 months premature and had hernias on both sides, one side was really large. He was 5 months old, 3 months corrected age when he had the surgery. The surgery took about 2 hours and he only had to stay at the hospital for about 3 hours afterwards. He was uncomfortable the first day and came down with a fever but was fine the second day. He seems much more comfortable now. Jackie

Infant with Diaphragmatic hernia

Jan 2008

Some good friends who are living in Israel for the year just discovered that their little girl to be has a diaphragmatic hernia. They are obviously consulting doctors in Israel, but I would love any advice, words of wisdom, stories, etc. that you have to share. Thank you so much. Alex

My sister's son was diagnosed with CDH at her first ultrasound with him. This was back in 2000. He was born on time and at 6 days old had his first surgery. I'm guessing the daughter is already born and they are not pregnant with her. With Jacob (my nephew), he had poor lung development on one side and hypertension due to his lower organs having floated to his chest region while in utero. Best wishes to your friend and his/her family! Jennifer

It's pretty much impossible for anyone on this list to say. Diaphragmatic hernias vary so much. If it's a little pin hole, it can be fixed surgically. If it's massive, it can mean that the babies lungs don't develop as the organs of the belly drift up into the chest. You'll have to wait for more information. Best wishes

Inguinal hernia for 5 month old baby

Sept 2006

Could anbody give me more information about inguinal hernia. I have a 5month old son and his one testicle is pretty bigger than the other. It stays big all the time. I ask my pediatritian Dr. Chiang in oakland and she said it will go away or drop in one year. I am little concerned about this and I ask another Dr Usem two days before and he said that it would not drop. He told me that it may be inguinal hernia may need surgery. I made an appointment at the children's hospital on this comming tuesday. Now me and my husband are very much worried about our son. Kindly give any information you have and if you experienced like this with your child, could you kindly share to us. It would help us alot. Thanks for taking your consideration

Our son was also found to have a hydrocele (similar to an inguinal hernia) around 5 months of age. I had noticed, while changing his diaper, that one of his testicles was larger than the other and seemed very much like a water balloon. I went to our pediatrician who checked it out and sent us directly (that day ) to Children's Hospital where a VERY skilled and knowledeable doctor, Dr. Karen Cartwright checked him out and confirmed that he had a hydrocele (a smaller version of the hernia). What she explained to us, and books later confirmed, was that the opening between the abdominal cavity and the testicular sac was not sealed all the way in utero and therefore, some fluid escaped into the testicular sac. The hernia version of this is when the opening is larger, large enough to allow a piece of the actual intestine to come through. The way she ruled the hernia out for us was that our son was in NO pain or discomfort during the visit, nor was he in any pain before or after. Apparently, a full blown hernia is VERY painful in children. She gave us several options: We could wait for it to potentially seal on its own (she did not think this would happen), we could wait until he was in actual pain, and then act, OR we could elect to do the corrective surgery right away (within a few months). She said it was not urgent, but recommended to do it sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than that he would remember it less. We chose the last option.

The idea of surgery was dreadful, but the more docs I talked with, the more it became obvious that this was VERY routine as a surgery, very successful, and very easy to recover from. True to all of the above, our son had the surgery (it was 1.5 hours at Children's Hospital), and while he was screaming as he came out from under general anasthesia, he was fine within an hour and off of tylenol within 24. I would trust the opinions of the docs at Children's Hospital. Every one we have come into contact with has been fabulous, smart, and efficient. Nine months post-surgery, we can barely even see the scar from the procedure. I have more to say but out of room so please email me for further questions about this! Good Luck!!

8-month-old with inguinal hernia

Jan 1999

My 8 month old baby girl has an inguinal hernia that requires surgery. Has anyone gone through this procedure? It is outpatient so she will be home that evening; since she is so active I wonder how much abdominal surgery will affect her. Any information will be valued and appreciated. Teal

To the person who asked about the Inguinal hernia procedure, our daughter had one on both sides. She had the surgery when she was 3 1/2 and it was so much easier than I expected. She had it at Childrens Hospital, Dr. Bishop, they were all great and they had a superb social worker who explained things to her and helped calm our fears greatly. She was a little sore that afternoon, it was out patient, and vomited a little, from the anasthesia but that is normal. She had the surgery on a Wed. and was back at preschool on Mon. She actually was pretty much her normal self in about 48 hrs. Kids are just so amazing. She had 1/2 teasoon of Tylenol for pain once, that was it. Its a very common procedure and I'm sure your baby will be fine. Our daughter is also very active and they told us there was nothing she could do to hurt herself just by moving around, jumping, running etc. Their movements are naturally slowed down by the soreness. Best of Luck

June 1998

Re: anesthetic for infant's hernia surgery

My son, now a teen, had this surgery when he was 3 month old to repair an inguinal hernia. This is hole in the lining of the intestine where the testes descend - it's supposed to close back up before the baby is born but sometimes it doesn't. The danger is that the intestines can get pushed out through the hole and then get squeezed off - I was told this is quite serious. This kind of hernia is very common in boys and the surgery for it is fairly routine.

My son had the surgery at Kaiser Oakland by a pediatric surgeon recommended by our pediatrician - can't remember his name now but he specialized in just this sort of thing. It took 20-30 minutes and I nursed him while he was still in the recovery room. He did have a general anesthetic - they use a special one just for babies. He had bandaid stitches - no thread, just something like tape over the very small incision. they healed in just a few days. It was quite amazing. He suffered no traumatic effects at all.

An interesting side story - I've heard that inguinal hernias are inherited. My son's dad had the surgery at the age of one - in the early 1950's the only surgeon available in his small town in S. Carolina was the county coroner who left a huge Frankenstein scar across his abdomen! His mother told me the hernia was discovered at birth but the doctor wanted to wait till he was one for some reason, and so he had to wear some sort of truss or bandage his first year of life, his mother worrying the whole time that he would push out his intestines every time he cried! His father also had an inguinal hernia but didn't have the surgery till it was discovered when he enlisted for WWII!

We haven't had to deal with surgery in our family but I received an issue of Mothering Magazine that had 2 articles on: When your child undergoes anesthesia, How children heal from medical experiences. They are in the Spring 1997 issue. If you have trouble finding the magazine, I can photocopy the articles for you. Good luck! Karen