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Epigastric hernia repair (child)

5-minute read

What is an epigastric hernia?

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

In an epigastric hernia, fat pushes out through a weakness in the wall of the abdomen between the belly button and sternum and forms a lump.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your child should no longer have the hernia. 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. It will not get better without surgery.

What will happen if I decide that my child will not have the operation?

An epigastric hernia is usually safe to leave alone. However, the hernia can get larger with time especially if your child is overweight or has a cough.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and 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, they will either remove the fat or push it back. If contents of the abdomen are also pushing through, they will place the contents back inside the abdomen.

Your surgeon will remove the hernial sac, close the weak spot in the muscles with strong stitches and close the skin.

Illustration showing an epigastric hernia.
An epigastric hernia.

What can I do to prepare my child for the operation?

Your child should try to maintain a healthy weight. They will have a higher risk of developing complications if they are overweight.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding during or after the operation
  • infection of the surgical site
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • inflammation

Specific complications of this operation

  • developing a collection of blood or fluid under the wound
  • injury to structures within the abdomen

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of the skin

How soon will my child recover?

After the operation your child will be transferred to the recovery area and then to the ward. They should be able to go home the same day.

Children often recover quickly and can be back to normal within a few days. Your doctor will tell you when your child can return to school. This is usually after 5 to 7 days.

Your child can return to normal activities as soon as they feel comfortable. This may take up to 4 weeks. They should not do strenuous exercise during this time.

Most children make a full recovery. However, the hernia can come back.


An epigastric hernia is a common condition caused by a weakness in the abdominal wall between the belly button and sternum. Surgery can help to relieve pain that is caused by the hernia.


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 ©

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Last reviewed: September 2023

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