Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery

Written by Erica Roth | Published on July 25, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What is an Umbilical Hernia Repair?

Umbilical hernia repair is a surgery performed to fix an umbilical hernia. An umbilical hernia is a bulge or pouch that forms in the abdomen. This bulge occurs when a section of the lining of your abdominal cavity pushes through the abdominal wall around where the belly button is located.

Umbilical hernias are common in children and adults, but do not always require surgical repair. Umbilical hernia repair is warranted if:

  • the hernia causes pain
  • the hernia is larger than a half inch in size
  • blood flow is interrupted
  • the hernia is large enough to cause disfigurement

Hernias in children most often go away on their own by the time the child is 4 years old.

Umbilical hernias in adults are less likely to go away on their own, especially in people who are pregnant or overweight.

A rare and serious complication related to umbilical hernias in adults is called strangulation. Strangulation is when the blood flow to certain parts of the body is cut off because the hernia causes tissue to bulge. Symptoms of strangulation include nausea, vomiting, and severe pain. The area around the umbilical hernia might look blue, as if you have a bruise. If it does look like this, call a doctor or healthcare professional right away.

Preparing for Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery

Umbilical hernia surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia. You will be asleep and will not experience any pain. Some small hernias can be repaired with a spinal block instead. In this case, you will be awake, but will be entirely numb at the surgery site.

Several days before the surgery, you will need to stop taking nonsteroid anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen. This will reduce your risk of bleeding during the procedure. Fasting for at least six hours before surgery is also a standard requirement.

Umbilical Hernia Repair Surgery Procedure

Umbilical hernia repair can be performed in two different ways. During a conventional open surgery, the surgeon makes an incision below your belly button to access the hernia. Alternatively, a less invasive procedure called laparoscopic surgery can be performed, in which the surgeon makes several smaller incisions around the hernia site. A thin, flexible tube with a light on the end is inserted into one of the holes. This instrument is called a laparoscope, and it allows your doctor to see the inside of your abdominal cavity on a video screen. Your surgeon inserts surgical instruments into the other keyhole-size holes in your abdomen to repair the hernia.

Regardless of the surgery type, the actual repair process remains the same. The surgeon gently pushes the bulging intestine and abdominal lining back through the hole in the abdominal wall. Stitches close the hole in the wall. Sometimes a synthetic mesh material is used in adults to make the area stronger.

Post-Surgery, Recovery, and Outlook

After your umbilical hernia surgery is finished, you’ll be brought to a recovery room to wake up. Hospital staff will monitor your vital signs, including your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Most people have hernia repair procedures as outpatient surgery and can go home a few hours afterward.

You will go home with pain medications and instructions to keep your stitches dry. Your healthcare provider will schedule a follow-up appointment within a couple of weeks to assess your healing. Most people can return to their full range of activities between two and four weeks after surgery.

Umbilical hernias generally do not return.

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