Jonathan I. Greenfeld, MD, is a pediatric surgeon at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz. For more information on this topic, talk with your physician or call 480.412.KIDS.
Question: My one-month-old nephew has been diagnosed with an inguinal hernia. How is this condition treated?
Answer: Inguinal hernias are common and primarily affect boys. They occur when the pathway that allows the testicles to drop from the abdomen to the scrotum sac, called the inguinal canal, remains open at birth. Repairing an inguinal hernia as soon as possible is very important. If the hernia is not fixed, the baby’s intestine can enter the open pathway and become trapped, causing the intestinal tissue to die, which is life-threatening; or the blood vessels to the testicles can be pinched within the tunnel, which can damage the testicles.
An inguinal hernia is fixed through surgery, and using a pediatric surgeon is recommended because a child’s hernia is repaired differently than an adult. A pediatric surgeon is specially trained to operate on children and repairs hernias regularly. Though complications with inguinal hernia surgeries are rare, pediatric expertise is beneficial.
The procedure requires general anesthesia, which is considered very safe for infants and young children. In most cases, babies can leave the hospital on the day of the surgery and usually only require an over-the-counter pain reliever to relieve discomfort. Any bandages used in the surgery will simply fall off after the incision has healed. And babies can take formula or breast milk immediately after the procedure.