Definition of Umbilical hernia
An umbilical hernia is an outward bulging (protrusion) of the abdominal lining or part of the abdominal organ(s) through the area around the belly button.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
An umbilical hernia in an infant occurs when the muscle through which blood vessels pass to feed the developing fetus doesn’t close completely.
A hernia can vary in width from less than 1 centimeter to more than 5 centimeters.
Signs and tests
The doctor can find the hernia during a physical exam.
Usually, no treatment is needed unless the hernia continues past age 3 or 4. In very rare cases, bowel or other tissue can bulge out and lose its blood supply (become strangulated). This is an emergency needing surgery.
Most umbilical hernias get better without treatment by the time the child is 3 – 4 years old. Those that do not close may need surgery. Umbilical hernias are usually painless.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/2/2009