A hernia is a protrusion of tissue or an organ through an opening or weakness in the muscle wall that usually contains it. Hernias happen at all ages with the most occurring before one-year of age and over 50 years of age. Infants can even be born with them. Surgery to repair hernias is the most common surgery for children.
There are several common types of hernias and many more uncommon types. The most common involve the abdomen. For each type of hernia, the herniated tissue may be either “reducible,” that is, the protrusion goes away between times of crying, coughing or straining. (Reducible hernias are not immediately harmful or painful.) The other type is called “incarcerated” and are more serious. These occur when the tissue does not go back where it belongs and becomes trapped inside the pouch which it has formed. This may, for instance, be a loop of the small intestine.
In this case, the intestine may be squeezed in the opening and will not receive its blood supply and food passage will be blocked. Both results call for immediate medical care. Symptoms of an incarcerated hernia may include pain, vomiting and fever.
Common locations for such hernias are the groin area — called “inguinal” — and the umbilical (belly-button) area.
Other common hernia types in older children and adults are the diaphragmatic — with hiatal hernia being the most common — and the incisional, caused by protrusion at an incompletely healed surgical site.