Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Inguinal Hernia Treatment

An inguinal hernia, whether it comes and goes or is always present, will not go away if left alone. Even those that seem to go away can come back again and get bigger when your child cries, coughs, runs or strains during a bowel movement. This can be uncomfortable.

The first step in treating an inguinal hernia is to try to gently press the bulging tissue back through the hole in the belly. This is called reducing the hernia. If the doctor is able to do this (your child has a reducible hernia), we recommend your child have surgery soon, probably within a few weeks, to close the hole so the hernia doesn’t return.

If the doctor is not able to press the bulging tissue back where it belongs, your child will need surgery right away. This is an emergency because it means the tissue is trapped (your child has an incarcerated hernia). The tissue is not getting the blood and oxygen it needs to survive.

If your child has hernias on both sides (or if the surgeon suspects your child might), the surgeon will talk with you about the options for evaluation and treatment.

Surgery for Inguinal Hernia

At the time of surgery, we will give your child medicine (general anesthesia) to make them sleep without pain. The doctors at Seattle Children’s who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. They have extra years of training in how to take care of children.

During the surgery for inguinal hernia, your child’s surgeon makes a very small cut (incision) on the lower belly. The surgeon gently pushes any bulging tissue back into the belly. Then the surgeon sews shut the sac that poked through the hole in the belly.

In girls, the surgeon then sews shut the hole in the belly.

In boys, the surgeon leaves the hole, which goes between the belly and the scrotum. They leave it because blood vessels for the testicles and tubes that carry sperm (vas) travel through the hole. The hole isn’t a problem; the hernia is fixed simply by closing the sac that poked through.

Finally, the surgeon will close the incision in your child’s skin.

The surgery takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Your child will be in the recovery room for 30 minutes to an hour.

Most often, your child can go home the same day as the surgery. Premature babies that have the surgery may need to stay overnight in the hospital so we can carefully watch them.

After Surgery for Inguinal Hernia

After surgery, we will give your child pain medicine to make them comfortable. At home, you’ll need to keep the incision clean and dry until it heals. The surgery team will teach you how to care for the incision. They will tell you if you should limit your child’s activity for a while.

A surgery clinic nurse will call you 5 to 7 days after surgery for a phone follow-up. If all is well, you do not need to come back to the surgery clinic. If you or the nurse has any concerns about your child’s healing, we will set up a visit for you.

Contact Us

If you have questions about inguinal hernia treatment, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794.