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Southern DHB Children's Health Outpatients - Otago

Public Service, Paediatrics

Inguinal Hernia

What is an inguinal hernia?
An inguinal hernia is caused by a connection between the scrotum and the abdomen (uncommonly a similar connection occurs in girls causing an inguinal hernia). The connection is present in all babies in the womb during development, but in most babies has closed over before birth. The connection allows some contents of the abdomen to pass down towards the scrotum causing a bulge in the groin. The bulge is often more noticeable when the baby cries. The bulge (or hernia) can usually be pushed back into the abdomen by gentle pressure when the baby is settled. Uncommonly the hernia cannot be pushed back (“reduced”), which can be a serious complication because the tissue trapped in the connection can become swollen and damaged.
An inguinal hernia can be repaired with a simple operation. Your family doctor will have referred you to a children’s surgeon who is experienced in repairing inguinal hernias. You will be seen in a hospital out-patient clinic.
When will my child be seen?
The younger your child is, the sooner he will be seen by the surgeon. A baby less than a few months old will usually be seen within a week and an operation might be booked within a few days. A six month old baby may wait several weeks for a clinic appointment and the operation may be booked some weeks later. Incarcerated hernias (those which cannot be pushed back) are operated on straight away.
How can I tell if the hernia is incarcerated (cannot be pushed back)?
If your baby cannot be settled, and has a swelling in the groin which you cannot push back, he should be taken to a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor must be seen urgently if the hernia is swollen, red and tender.  He should not be fed until he has been examined by the doctor in case he needs later surgery.

This page was last updated at 11:25AM on May 13, 2021.