Know Inguinal Hernia in Infants & Children

Inguinal hernia in children and infants

Inguinal hernia is a medical condition that occurs when the intestine, bladder, or both protrude through an opening in the abdominal wall. It happens near the groin area, which is between the belly and thighs. The protrusion can cause pain and discomfort. Inguinal hernias usually occur in men aged 15 to 45, but they can occur at any age including in children.

In the case of healthy children, nearly 3-5% of infants can be affected by an inguinal hernia. However, 30% of premature children are born with an inguinal hernia. If left untreated, an inguinal hernia can become life-threatening.

What causes inguinal hernia in children

Children and new-borns can be affected by inguinal hernia due to the weakness in the abdominal wall during birth. As the male child grows during pregnancy, the testicles are developed in the womb. The testicles then move down to the scrotum through the inguinal canal. The same tunnel is also present in female infants.

Once the baby is born, the canal closes stopping the testicles from going back to the abdomen. If it does not close completely, a portion of the intestine can move to the canal from the weak area of the lower belly wall causing the hernia.

An inguinal hernia in infants is only visible when the infant is crying, straining during bowel movement, or coughing. In the case of older children, an inguinal hernia can be seen only when the child coughs, stands for a longer time, or strains during bowel. An inguinal hernia can cause irritation and loss of appetite in children.


For inguinal hernia, the condition can get complicated if it cannot be pushed back to the belly. The portion of the intestine gets stuck in the weaker part of the abdominal, causing symptoms like:

- Pain or fussiness
- Full round belly
- Fever
- Vomiting
- Redness or a normal colour

While these symptoms may look normal or you may associate these with other health problems, you must visit a hospital for hernia treatment in Chennai.


Quite often, a doctor can diagnose an inguinal hernia by seeing the bulge in the groin when the child is crying or straining during coughing which eventually disappears on relaxation. Yet, if the bulge or other mentioned symptoms might exist, an ultrasound can be helpful.


Treatment for inguinal hernia in children depends on the severity. In cases of complexity, surgery is recommended. Yet, the operation usually lasts only for an hour and is an outpatient procedure meaning the child can leave the same day from the hospital.

During surgery, the child is given general anaesthesia. A small incision or cut is made in the area of the hernia. The doctor will then put the intestine back in the abdomen area and stitch the muscles.

Only in the case of premature babies, they might be required to stay longer in the hospital for further observation, followed by appointments in later weeks.


There might be some pain after the surgery. It will however subside in a week or two. The doctor may provide some medication to manage the pain. The child will be restricted from bathing for the first few days after surgery. Provide a regular diet to your child after surgery for improvement.

Dr. Karthik Gunasekaran