What Is Umbilical Granuloma and How Is It Treated?

Medically reviewed by Daniel Murrell, MD on November 8, 2017Written by James Roland on November 8, 2017

What is umbilical granuloma?

When your baby’s umbilical cord is cut, you’ll need to watch the belly button carefully to make sure it heals properly. Umbilical infections and bleeding are key concerns.

Another development that bears watching is called an umbilical granuloma. It’s a small growth of tissue that forms in the belly button during the first few weeks after the umbilical cord is cut.

An umbilical granuloma looks like a little red lump and may be covered in yellow or clear discharge. An estimated 1 out of 500 newborn babies have an umbilical granuloma.

An umbilical granuloma may not bother your baby. However, it can become infected. This can lead to other symptoms, such as skin irritation around the belly button and a fever.

Granulomas in adults

While umbilical granulomas primarily affect newborns, these little growths can form in the belly buttons of adults, too. Navel piercings can sometimes trigger the formation of granulomas. They can be painful in adults.

If pus emerges from the lump, it’s a sign of infection. You’ll need antibiotics to treat it. If you experience pain and swelling around the belly button, it may also be an umbilical hernia.

To know for sure what the problem is, you should see a doctor if a growth forms in or around your navel.

What causes this?

Normally, when the umbilical cord is cut, a small “stump” remains in the belly button. It usually dries up and falls off without any complications. Sometimes, though, when the stump falls off, an umbilical granuloma forms. An umbilical granuloma is like scar tissue that forms as the belly button heals after losing the cord.

How is it treated?

An umbilical granuloma should be treated. Otherwise, it can get infected and pose a health risk to your baby.

Fortunately, most umbilical granulomas can be treated easily with a tiny amount of a chemical called silver nitrate. It burns off the tissue. There are no nerves in the growth, so the procedure doesn’t cause any pain.

If silver nitrate doesn’t work or another procedure is preferred, you and your baby’s pediatrician have some options:

  • A small amount of liquid nitrogen can be poured on the granuloma to freeze it. The tissue then dissolves.
  • The growth can be tied off with suture thread. Before long, it will dry out and disappear.
  • A little salt can be placed on the granuloma and kept in place with a piece of gauze taped over the belly button. After 10 to 30 minutes, clean the area with a gauze pad that you’ve soaked with warm water. Repeat twice a day for two or three days. If the granuloma doesn’t shrink and begin to dry out, see your doctor. If the salt treatment seems to be working, continue it until the granuloma disappears and the belly button starts to heal.
  • In rare cases, surgery is needed to remove the granuloma and stop the spread of infection.

Home care during and after treatment

In general, you want to keep the belly button clean and dry during this time. Gently clean the belly button with warm water and soap. It’s most important to follow the instructions of your pediatrician for any treatment, but especially if your baby is being treated with silver nitrate.

Exposing the belly button to air may be helpful, too. You can help by rolling down the front of the diaper so that it doesn’t cover the belly button. You should also avoid placing your baby in bathwater until the belly button has healed.

What’s the outlook?

An umbilical granuloma can be treated effectively in most cases without complications. If you notice a granuloma forming, don’t hesitate to let your pediatrician evaluate the condition. This is especially true if a granuloma is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • a fever of more than 100.4°F
  • bleeding around the granuloma
  • swelling or redness around the granuloma
  • pain or tenderness around the belly button
  • foul-smelling drainage from the belly button
  • a rash near the belly button

Identifying a granuloma early and starting treatment sooner rather than later can help ensure a speedier recovery.

You should also ask your doctor about what to look for in case the initial treatment doesn’t seem to be working. Fortunately, simple treatments, such as silver nitrate, are usually effective at getting rid of an umbilical granuloma permanently.

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