Umbilical Hernia Treatment

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For many parents, seeing their baby’s umbilical hernia can be alarming. Instead of their belly button being an innie or outie, it’s a bulge. This type of hernia is incredibly common in babies and is rarely a cause for concern. 

Umbilical Hernia Treatment at UVA Health Children’s

Doctors can diagnose an umbilical hernia with a physical exam. They will make sure the hernia is reducible. That means if they push on it, it becomes smaller. It may become larger if your baby starts to cry or is very constipated.

Based on what they find, your doctor may recommend not treating your child's umbilical hernia.

What Is an Umbilical Hernia and When Does It Need Treatment? 

An umbilical hernia is when a small hole in the abdominal wall allows the intestines to poke through right at the belly button. Umbilical hernias can happen in anyone, but nearly 20% of babies are born with them. Most umbilical hernias will heal on their own by the time your child is between the ages of 1 and 5. Your regular pediatrician will keep an eye on the hernia.

But if it becomes larger, or incarcerated, then you may be referred to UVA Health Children's for umbilical hernia repair.

Umbilical Hernia Incarceration

Your doctor will talk to you about umbilical hernia incarceration. Though rare, this is a very serious umbilical hernia complication. If the intestine can no longer move through the opening, it will lose its blood supply.

If this happens, it’s a medical emergency and you’ll need to act quickly.

Symptoms of an incarcerated umbilical hernia include:

  • Pain 
  • Vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • Abdominal discoloration 

If this happens, your doctor will order some tests to confirm the diagnosis and then proceed with surgery. 

Umbilical Hernia Surgery 

If a child’s umbilical hernia is getting larger, hasn’t gone away, or is in danger of becoming incarcerated, your doctor may recommend surgery. Umbilical hernia repair is a very simple surgery. At UVA Health Children's, our experienced surgeons will use the least invasive techniques possible to ensure a quick recovery.

Our pediatric surgery patients benefit from right-size equipment, anesthesiologists who work with children, and a child life department that can explain their surgery to your child.

In many cases, belly button hernia repairs can be done as an outpatient procedure. If your child is very young or has other conditions, they may elect to keep them overnight for observation. Learn more about what to expect from your child's hospital stay

Home Treatment for Umbilical Hernias 

Unfortunately, many old wives’ tales about taping coins or using binders for belly button hernias exist. These solutions don’t work and can be harmful. Coins aren’t exactly sterile, and germs can build up under the tape. This can cause infection.

Just keep your child’s belly button clean and keep an eye on it to make sure it’s still reducible.