Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Epigastric hernia repair (adult)

5-minute read

What is an epigastric hernia?

An epigastric hernia is a lump in the midline between your belly button and sternum (breastbone) which can cause pain.

Your abdominal cavity contains your intestines and other structures. These are protected by your abdominal wall, which is made up of four layers.

In an epigastric hernia, fat pushes out through a weakness in the wall of your abdomen between your belly button and sternum and forms a lump. The most common symptom is pain caused by the fat being pinched by your abdominal wall.

Illustration showing an epigastric hernia repair (adult).
An epigastric hernia.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Surgery can help to relieve pain that is caused by the hernia.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

The hernia can be left alone but pain caused by the hernia will usually continue and complications can happen. It will not get better without surgery.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but various anaesthetic techniques are possible.

The operation usually takes about 30 minutes. Your surgeon will make a cut over the hernia and free up the ‘hernial sac’.

If only fat is pushing through, your surgeon will either remove the fat or push it back. If contents of your abdomen are also pushing through, they will place the contents back inside your abdomen.

Your surgeon will remove the hernial sac and close the weak spot with strong stitches or a synthetic mesh.

How can I prepare myself for the operation?

If you smoke, stopping smoking now may reduce your risk of developing complications and will improve your long-term health.

Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight.

Regular exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help you to recover and improve your long-term health. Do not do exercises that involve heavy lifting or make your hernia painful. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Speak to the healthcare team about any vaccinations you might need to reduce your risk of serious illness while you recover. When you come into hospital, practise hand washing and wear a face covering when asked.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • chest infection

Specific complications of this operation

  • developing a collection of blood (haematoma) or fluid (seroma) under your wound
  • injury to structures within your abdomen

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of your skin

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

You should be able to return to work after 1 to 2 weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your type of work.

Do not lift anything heavy for at least 6 weeks.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities. The hernia can come back many years later and you may need another operation.

Summary

An epigastric hernia is a common condition caused by a weakness in your abdominal wall between your belly button and sternum. If left untreated, an epigastric hernia can cause serious complications.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Inguinal hernia | Children's Health Queensland

Find out what surgery to correct an inguinal hernia involves.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Hernias - Better Health Channel

Both reducible and non-reducible hernias need to be surgically repaired - this is a common operation.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) - Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons

Abdominoplasty, sometimes known as a 'tummy tuck', is designed to help improve the shape and tone of the abdominal region.

Read more on Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons website

Breast reconstruction and mastectomy - Better Health Channel

Some women choose to have breast reconstruction surgery to give a similar appearance to the look of their original breast in normal clothes.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Constipation - Better Health Channel

Most cases of constipation are treated by eating a diet high in fibre, drinking more fluids, and exercising daily.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Testicular conditions

A number of conditions can affect the testicles (the male sex glands where sperm are made.)

Read more on WA Health website

Indigestion (heartburn and reflux) - Better Health Channel

Food inside the stomach is only kept there by the force of gravity so to avoid heartburn, don't lie down after a big meal.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Laparoscopy - Better Health Channel

The advantage of laparoscopy is that only a small incision is required, which is why it is also known as 'keyhole surgery'.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Understanding your newborn baby’s body

Your newborn baby may look a little different than expected or have symptoms that worry you. Find out what’s normal and when to seek help.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Hysterectomy

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.