Inguinal hernia repair (child)
This page will give you information about an inguinal hernia repair. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is an inguinal hernia?
An inguinal hernia is where the contents of the abdomen push down towards the scrotum in boys, or labia (folds of skin at the entrance of the vagina) in girls.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Your child should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent your child from having any of the serious complications that a hernia can cause and allow them to return to normal activities.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
The hernia will not get better without surgery.
What will happen if I decide that my child will not have the operation or the operation is delayed?
Occasionally, the hernia can get larger with time. It can also be dangerous because the intestines or other structures within the abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia) (risk: 3 in 10 for premature babies and children under 1 year, 1 in 10 for older children).
The symptoms that may suggest a strangulated hernia are:
- severe pain
- a hernia that will not disappear when your child lies down
If your child has any of these symptoms you must call the healthcare team immediately as your child may need an urgent operation.
If left untreated, a strangulated hernia will cause damage to the testicle (in boys), or ovary (in girls), or bowel and may cause death. If you think your child has a strangulated hernia, take them to hospital straight away.
Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
What does the operation involve?
Inguinal hernias can be repaired using keyhole surgery but most inguinal hernias in children are repaired through a cut on the groin.
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour.
Your surgeon will make a cut on the groin and find the ‘hernial sac’.
In boys, the sac is stuck on to the blood vessels that supply the testicle. It is also stuck on to the vas, the tube that will carry sperm away from the testicle. In girls, the hernia can contain an ovary or part of the fallopian tube.
Your surgeon will put back the contents of the sac into the abdominal cavity and peel the sac away before tying it off.
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
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
Specific complications of this operation
- developing a collection of blood or fluid under the wound
- developing a hydrocele, which is a swelling around the testicle
- injury to structures within the hernia that come from the abdomen
- damage to nerves that supply the skin around the groin
- damage of the blood supply to the testicle
- the testicle may come to lie higher in the scrotum
- damage to the vas
Consequences of this procedure
- unsightly scarring of the skin
How soon will my child recover?
They should be able to go home the same day or the day after.
Your doctor will tell you when your child can return to school. This is usually after 5 to 7 days.
Most children make a full recovery and can return to normal activities.
An inguinal hernia is a common condition. It is caused by the contents of the abdomen pushing down towards the scrotum or labia. If left untreated, an inguinal hernia can cause serious complications.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2022