Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia is an abnormal bulge near an infant’s belly button, which occurs at the umbilical opening. The umbilical opening is a small opening in the abdominal muscles of the baby, through which the umbilical cord passes. This opening closes normally after birth. 

However, sometimes the muscles fail to come together forming an opening called an umbilical ring. When a part of the abdominal lining, intestine or abdominal fluid protrudes through the umbilical ring in the wall of the abdominal muscles, a protruding bulge, called an umbilical hernia, can be seen. In many cases, umbilical hernia subsides on their own as the umbilical opening closes over time.

In some cases, the protruding tissue may become trapped (incarcerated), leading to a more complicated disorder called the incarcerated umbilical hernia. This occurs because blood supply to the trapped part of the intestine is reduced, which could ultimately lead to tissue damage and further complications.   

Umbilical hernia is more common in children born with low birth weights, or those born prematurely. It is also equally common in girls and boys, and the size of the umbilical hernias also varies. ​

​The most noticeable symptom of an umbilical hernia is a bulge at your child’s belly button. This bulge becomes harder and larger when a baby cries, coughs or strains, as increasing abdominal pressure forces out the contents of the hernia. When the baby is relaxed, the hernia becomes soft again and may return back inside. 

Generally, umbilical hernia is not accompanied by any pain, though it may become painful if the intestines get trapped within the umbilical hernia, a more serious condition known as an incarcerated hernia. ​​

Since it can be disturbing for parents to see a prominent bulge at their baby’s belly button, you must consult a paediatrician to discuss your concerns if you suspect your child has umbilical hernia. 

​In case the umbilical hernia appears discoloured with your baby being evidently in pain, or it is tender to touch or your baby vomits, you must seek immediate medical attention as these could be signs of an incarcerated umbilical hernia.

At The Aga Khan University Hospital the only internationally accredited hospital of Pakistan; our team of paediatricians are highly trained highly trained in the diagnosis and treatment of paediatric disorders, including umbilical hernia. Consult a paediatrician working at the Children’s Hospital Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital to gain professional medical advice, discuss your child’s symptoms and receive personalized treatment and care.​

Your child’s doctor will first ask questions about any other symptom, such as pain, that you may have observed in your child. Thereby a detailed physical examination by a paediatrician will help make a diagnosis of umbilical hernia.

In some cases, a CT (Computerized Tomography) scan or abdominal ultrasound may be requested to check for the possibility of any complications associated with umbilical hernia.​

In most cases, umbilical hernia closes themselves by the time a child is two or three years of age. That’s why surgery is not recommended immediately and a wait-and-see approach is prescribed to parents of children with umbilical hernia. 

However, surgery may be recommended to treat umbilical hernia if:

  • The hernia doesn’t go back into the abdomen by two or three years of age

  • The hernia is very large (if it’s more than half an inch in diameter)

  • The hernia is painful

  • The child has incarcerated umbilical hernia with trapped intestines

Surgery helps to place the protruding abdominal lining or intestine back in place and close the abdominal muscle opening to prevent a recurrence of the hernia. 

As with all surgical procedures, talk with your doctor at The Aga Khan University Hospital about the possible risks and complications of surgery before you try it.​

​The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage

​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.