Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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Contents of this page:


Inguinal hernia
Inguinal hernia
Inguinal hernia repair  - series
Inguinal hernia repair - series

Alternative Names    Return to top

Hernia - inguinal; Inguinal hernia

Definition    Return to top

A hernia occurs when part of an organ (usually the intestines) sticks through a weak point or tear in the thin muscular wall that holds the abdominal organs in place.

There are several types of hernias, based on where they occur:

Causes    Return to top

Usually, there is no obvious cause of a hernia, although they are sometimes associated with heavy lifting.

Hernias can be seen in infants and children. This can happen when the lining around the abdominal organs does not close properly before birth. About 5 out of 100 children have inguinal hernias (more boys than girls). Some may not have symptoms until adulthood.

If you have any of the following, you are more likely to develop a hernia:

Symptoms    Return to top

Exams and Tests    Return to top

A doctor can confirm the presence of a hernia during a physical exam. The mass may increase in size when coughing, bending, lifting, or straining. The hernia (bulge) may not be obvious in infants and children, except when the child is crying or coughing.

Treatment    Return to top

Most hernias can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity. However, if it cannot be pushed back through the abdominal wall, this can lead to a strangulated loop of intestine. If left untreated, this portion of the intestine dies because of loss of blood supply.

Almost all hernias require surgery, preferably before complications occur, to reposition the herniated loop of intestine and secure the weakened muscles in the abdomen.

For information on such surgery, see hernia repair.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outcome is usually good with treatment. Recurrence is rare (1-3%).

Possible Complications    Return to top

An incarcerated hernia can lead to a strangulated intestine, which can result in gangrene, a life-threatening condition requiring emergency surgery. In rare cases, inguinal hernia repair can damage structures involved in the function of a man's testicles.

Another risk of hernia surgery is nerve damage, which can lead to numbness in the groin area.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your doctor right away if:

Call your doctor if:

Prevention    Return to top

References    Return to top

Patient Care Committee, Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. Surgical repair of groin hernias: SSAT patient care guidelines. J Gastrointest Surg. 2004;8(3):365-366.

Hachisuka T. Femoral hernia repair. Surg Clin North Am. 2003;83(5):1189-1205.

Awad SS. Current approaches to inguinal hernia repair. Am J Surg. 2004;188(6A):9S-16S.

Update Date: 10/24/2007

Updated by: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor or Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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