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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Inguinal hernia in children

Whaturama tapatapa ki ngā tamariki

illustration showing a lump representing the hernia near the top of a baby's groinA hernia is a lump that appears when tissue pushes through a weak spot in the wall of a person's abdomen (tummy). In an inguinal hernia, this weak spot is in their groin and that is where the lump shows up.

Inguinal hernias are more common in boys, but they can also happen in girls. They're more likely to happen in premature pēpi (babies), but they can happen at any age.

Symptoms of an inguinal hernia

Your tamaiti (child) will have a swelling or visible lump in their groin. In boys the lump may go into the scrotum.

The swelling:

The lump can also get stuck and cause pain. This is called a strangulated hernia. If a tamaiti has a strangulated hernia the lump will feel hard and sore.

Important

A strangulated hernia is a medical emergency. If you think your tamaiti child has a strangulated hernia, take them to your general practice team, to the after-hours surgery or to the hospital's Emergency Department.

Treating an inguinal hernia

If your tamaiti has an inguinal hernia, they will need an operation to repair it and stop it from becoming strangulated. This is usually done under a general anaesthetic (your tamaiti is asleep) as day surgery, so they will not have to stay in hospital overnight. But some young pēpi need to stay in hospital overnight to be monitored.

During the operation, the surgeon will make a small cut in your child's groin. They will stitch up the weak spot to stop the hernia coming out, then close the cut with a dissolvable stitch that is hard to see and doesn't need to be removed.

After the surgery, there is a small chance of infection and bleeding and your tamaiti may need antibiotics. In boys, there is a very small chance the surgery may damage the tube that carries sperm (vas deferens) or other vessels. In rare cases, the hernia may come back. Talk to your child's surgeon about these risks.

Your tamaiti should recover quickly, but they may need some simple pain relief for a few days.

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Written by paediatric surgeon, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2022.

Sources

See also:

Hernia

Page reference: 421338

Review key: HIIHB-421338