Before a baby is born, he has a small opening in the muscle on the lower part of his belly. This opening should close before the baby is born. If it doesn't, fluid can drain through the hole from the belly into the scrotum, forming what is called a hydrocele.
If the opening in the muscle is large enough, the intestines — which are normally in the belly — can slide through the opening, forming what is called a hernia, a bulge or swelling in the groin area, or in the scrotum in boys. Hernias are most often seen in babies, but can also occur in older children. Babies and small children may have hernias on both sides of the groin or scrotum, even if you can only see a hernia on one side.
Most of the time, a hernia may look strange, but it isn't an emergency. It can be an emergency if the intestines slide through the opening and can't move back into the belly. You should take your child to his doctor right away if the hernia becomes very hard, or if he's vomiting or feels sick to his stomach.
If your child has a hernia, a pediatric surgeon will repair it while your child is asleep in the operating room. Your child will get medicine to help him to sleep. Once he goes to sleep, the surgeon will make an incision in the groin area so he can find the hernia.
If your child has a hydrocele, the surgeon will drain the fluid from the area. If your child has a hernia, the surgeon will push the intestines back into place, then stitch the opening in the belly muscle. The stitches will be under the skin and don't need to be removed. The doctor will put medicine into the area to make it numb.
After your child wakes up, she'll be taken to the recovery room. Usually, most children have the surgery and go home on the same day. If your child was born early or has other health problems, she may need to stay overnight.
While your child is in the day surgery area, she'll be offered something to drink before she goes home. She can eat and drink normally later in the day, when she's feeling better.
Here's what you need to know about your child's recovery at home:
Be sure to call your child's surgeon's office (at Children's Hospital, you should call 215-590-2730) if:
Reviewed by: Surgical Advanced Practice Nurses
Date: November 2008