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Overview of abdominal hernia

HerniaThis page is about hernias in adults. For hernias in children see Inguinal hernia in children.

A hernia is a lump that happens when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in the wall of your abdomen (tummy).

A hernia usually develops gradually because of stress or strain on your abdominal wall. The most common places for hernias are in the groin (inguinal or femoral hernias) and by the belly button area (umbilical and epigastric hernias). They can also appear in areas where there is already a weakness, such as by previous scars (incisional hernias).

Sometimes you can see the lump when you stand up but it disappears when you are lying down. Some hernias don't cause any problems, though you do notice the lump. Other hernias can ache or cause pain.

If you think that you have could have a hernia, see your GP.


Occasionally hernias can strangulate. A strangulated hernia is when a bit of bowel (intestine) comes through the gap and gets stuck. This can cut off the blood supply to the intestine and causes a severely painful lump. This is an emergency. The part of the intestine which is starved of blood could die. If you have severe pain or vomiting see a doctor urgently.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Page created January 2015.


Page reference: 558914

Review key: HIHER-19885