Umbilical hernias occur in or around the naval, or umbilicus. An umbilical hernia occurs when the abdominal lining, or any portion of abdominal organs, protrudes through a small hole in the abdominal wall around the navel area. An umbilical hernia is also known as a belly button hernia.
Umbilical hernias can be acquired as the result of a sudden or repetitive strain, pressure or injury which weakens the abdominal wall. However, umbilical hernias can also be congenital, or present since birth. In some cases, umbilical hernias are caused at birth by a weakness in the navel area where the umbilical cord exited the infant, the umbilical ring never quite heals. What exactly prevents the umbilical ring from closing completely is not known, though it is thought that many aspects affecting the developing fetus are involved. For example, infants born prematurely may not have been given sufficient time in the womb for the abdominal wall to fully develop, thus causing the weakness. This is why umbilical hernias are commonly found in infants, but can occur at any time through late adulthood.
Depending on the severity of the hernia, it may be anywhere from 1 to 5 or more inches in diameter. In infants, hernias may slowly close, possibly delaying surgery until age 3 or 4 unless the hernia causes problems before then. However, umbilical hernias which do not close by this time may require surgery. In adults an umbilical hernia will not heal and go away and is often caused by sudden or repeated strain or stress on the abdominal muscles. As time passes, the hole or weakness increasingly grows larger allowing more abdominal contents to protrude, sometimes to the point that the hernia will distort the navel creating an "outie" instead of an "innie". Often times umbilical hernias in adults can become problematic in that incarceration or strangulation can occur and immediate medical attention may become necessary. This is known as an incarcerated umbilical hernia or a strangulated umbilical hernia.
Umbilical hernia symptoms. As always, signs and symptoms of an umbilical hernia vary from person to person, however, the primary umbilical hernia symptom is often a small, soft bulge under or around the navel area. The bulge may be visible, or it may only be felt when pushed on. Sometimes the umbilical hernia is accompanied by pain, or a burning sensation, in the abdomen and may become more severe when lifting, coughing or sneezing. This area may also become swollen and may appear red or a gray-blue on the surface. It is possible to be able to push part of the bulge from the hernia back into the abdomen temporarily, but again, it will not heal or go away on its own and will eventually require umbilical hernia surgery.
Umbilical Hernia Surgery
Many techniques still in practice today make use of umbilical hernia repair by closing the hole in the abdominal wall with sutures, creating a considerable amount of tension, and overlapping muscle. At the Hernia Center of Southern California, we do not practice this type of umbilical hernia repair, but recommend and practice the "tension free" mesh technique to repair umbilical hernias. We understand by overlapping muscle and repairing the abdominal wall only with sutures causes more tension in an already weak area. If your body could not hold everything together on its own, creating more tension in an area where tension already failed is not the remedy. Rather, strengthening and reinforcing the weakness to withstand further wear and tear on your body is the remedy and is also why we practice the "tension free" mesh technique.
The safest, most effective umbilical hernia surgery is with mesh and the advanced "tension free" technique. Umbilical hernia repair is a one-day, out-patient procedure and is performed under our preferred method of local anesthesia with sedation. In umbilical hernia repair, the mesh is placed underneath the weakness or hole in the abdominal wall. The mesh is tailored to extend past the outside edges of each individual hernia. This ensures the mesh will act as a sturdy platform for all new tissue growth and also as a support for the existing abdominal wall muscle. NO muscles are ever cut and nothing is ever sutured together to cause tension. The polypropylene mesh is thin and incredibly flexible and throughout the healing process will incorporate itself safely into your muscle without you feeling anything during everyday activity. When performing umbilical hernia repair, cosmetic surgery techniques are utilized to ensure the navel returns to its normal appearance after surgery as it is not altered in any way.
We have perfected our surgical techniques in such a way that we are even able to test and maximize the strength of the hernia before surgery is complete. Our proprietary methods of umbilical hernia surgery enable you to return to everyday activity quicker. Not only that, but our surgical methods are:
- Fully Approved
- Designed for Fast Return to Everyday Activity
- Provide Minimum Post-Operative Pain
- Less Physically Restrictive
- Achieve High Patient Satisfaction