Umbilical Hernias: Your Questions Answered

Personal injury law allows patients who have undergone umbilical hernia repair surgery to file a lawsuit if the mesh used in the surgery causes injuries.

Umbilical hernia is a condition that occurs when tissue, like intestines, protrude through weakened muscles around the navel (umbilicus). This condition occurs mostly among infants. There is a small opening in a baby's abdominal muscles made by the passage of the umbilical cord while in the womb. When the baby is born, the abdominal muscles are supposed to join together, and if they do not do so completely, tissue may protrude through the opening.

To a lesser extent, umbilical hernias also occur in adults. But when it happens to an adult, it can be a medical emergency.

Having a hernia can be a traumatic experience. Our personal injury lawyers answer common questions you may have about this type of hernia:

Personal injury law allows patients who have undergone umbilical hernia repair surgery to file a lawsuit if the mesh used in the surgery causes injuries.

1. Who is most at risk?

The factors characterizing those persons most at risk for this type of hernia are dependent on if it is an infant or an adult.

1.1 Risk Factors for Infants

Infants overall are most at risk, but the risk increases if any of the following factors are present:

  • Premature
  • Low birth weight
  • African American

Umbilical hernias are experienced by both male and female infants at a comparable rate. 1

1. 2 Risk Factors for Adults

In adults, the risk factors associated with an umbilical hernia include:

  • Overall abdominal pressure
  • Obesity
  • Ascites, or fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Prior abdominal surgery
  • Chronic peritoneal dialysis
  • High work activity, like lifting and carrying heavy loads
  • Chronic cough.

This type of hernia is more common in adult women compared to adult men. 2

2. What are the signs and symptoms?

Signs and symptoms are generally the same whether it is an infant, child, or adult with the condition.

  • Swelling or bulge in the region of the belly button or navel;
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Loss of appetite.

If the hernia is small, it will likely not cause much pain, but if or when it grows in size, it can become more than mere discomfort.

3. What is the treatment?

If the hernia is not bothersome or not painful, you may not need treatment -- at least not immediately. For infants, the condition usually corrects itself by the time the baby is one or two years old. If by the age of four, the hernia has not yet closed, surgery may be required.

For adults, serious complications can arise, particularly incarceration or obstruction of the intestines, if treatment is not provided. Both incarceration and obstruction of the intestines can be life-threatening. Treatment is in the form of either open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. There are two repair methods: suture or mesh. Suture has a high recurrence rate (28%), so mesh support is usually recommended. 3

4. What are the side effects of surgery?

Both open and laparoscopic surgeries carry with them risks. Regardless the technique used, side effects and complications include:

5. How do you prevent an umbilical hernia or recurrence?

If you are at risk of developing an umbilical hernia, you can take measures to prevent it. These measures include:

  • Controlling your weight
  • Using proper lifting techniques (e.g., use a back brace)
  • Taking prompt care of coughs
  • Reduce straining during a bowel movement
  • Refrain from sharp movements.

6. When should you see a doctor?

When to see your doctor or seek immediate emergency care are generally the same for either an infant or an adult.

6.1 When to See Your Doctor Pre-Diagnosis

When a baby has an umbilical hernia, it may not be noticeable except when the baby is upset, crying, or coughing. If you happen to see a bulge in the baby's navel area and it only appears when your child cries or coughs, speak to the child's pediatrician about it.

Likewise, as an adult, if you feel a bulge in the navel area, but it is not painful or associated with any other problem, speak to your physician about it. There is no need to make an immediate appointment.

6.2 When to Seek Immediate Medical Assistance Pre-Treatment

For either an infant or adult, seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You are in pain or your baby appears to be in pain due to the hernia.
  • You or your baby vomits.
  • The hernia becomes swollen, tender, painful, and/or discolored.

The sooner you seek medical attention, the better your chances are at preventing complications. 5

6.3 When to Contact the Surgeon Post-Surgery

If you or your child has had hernia repair surgery, you should contact your surgeon if any of the following are present:

  • The pain does not go away.
  • The pain worsens
  • Swelling develops alongside the pain.
  • You or your child has a fever of more than 101℉.
  • You or your child vomits more than once.
  • At the site of the wound, there is swelling, bleeding, redness, or drainage.
  • You do not have a bowel movement by the third day after the surgery.

7. When should you see a personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer about an umbilical hernia?

You may never have to contact a medical malpractice lawyer about your hernia. The only time this would occur is if the medical device (e.g., synthetic mesh) is defective or if your physician or other medical professional breached his or her duty to you and you were harmed because of that breach.

Injured by a defective medical device or medical malpractice? Contact us to discuss your options.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider's negligence or by a defective medical product, contact our personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation. Call us at 855-396-0370 or fill out our online contact form on this page.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Umbilical Hernia.
  2. Ibid. See also, Nordqvist, Christian. Umbilical hernia: What you need to know. Medical News Today. Aug. 22, 2016.
  3. Kulacoglu, Hakan. Current options in umbilical hernia repair in adult patients.. Turkish Journal of Surgery. 2015; 31(3): 157-161.
  4. American College of Surgeons. Adult Umbilical Hernia Repair.
  5. Supra note 1.

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