Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Umbilical Hernia Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Umbilical Hernia

The main symptom of an umbilical hernia is a bulge at your child's belly button. You may see the bulge more easily when your child sits up, cries or strains. It may flatten out when your child lies back.

Most children have no pain or other problems from umbilical hernias. In very rare cases, the intestine gets trapped, blocked or cut off from blood. If this happens, your child may have:

  • Pain in the belly
  • Swelling or discoloration at site of the hernia
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

If your child has these symptoms, call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room.

Umbilical Hernia Diagnosis

Doctors can diagnose umbilical hernias by examining your child. Your child probably will not need any tests or other procedures to diagnose the hernia.

Umbilical hernias usually do not cause problems in children. But in teens and adults, belly fat or part of the intestine may become trapped in the hole. This is called incarceration. It may require emergency surgery. Usually surgeons recommend repairing an umbilical hernia by the time a child is 4 to 5 years old.

When an umbilical hernia is large, doctors may recommend surgery earlier. The term "large" can be confusing. While the size of the bulge is usually not important, the size of the hole in your child's belly is. Holes less than about an inch (2 centimeters) in width usually close on their own. Holes greater than an inch in width usually do not close by themselves. They may require surgery.