Part of the role of the muscles in the abdominal region is to remain strong and tight enough to keep our major organs and intestines firmly in place, inside our bodies. This extra layer of protection is vital should we have an accident and suffer an injury. However, sometimes weaknesses in the muscles develop. When this happens, it is possible for a section of the bowel or fatty tissue to protrude through an area near the belly button. This is known as an umbilical hernia.
Anyone can develop an umbilical hernia, but they are particularly common in infants and young children. They are also regularly seen in premature infants, whose muscles have not yet developed enough to fully contain all of their organs. In many cases, these will resolve themselves, and the muscles will reseal before the time reaches 12 months old. However, umbilical hernias can also develop in adults too- mainly from years of undue tension and pressure on the muscles of the abdominal wall.
There are a number of different factors that are believed to contribute towards the development of umbilical hernias in adults. These include:
Being overweight or obese
Having a persistent heavy cough
Straining or struggling when lifting or moving heavy objects
Being pregnant with twins or triplets
Unfortunately, adult umbilical hernias rarely resolve themselves. Since the risks associated with them are much higher, surgery to repair the hernia is strongly recommended, especially when the hernia is causing symptoms.
In many cases, a patient can live with an umbilical hernia for some time without any problems or symptoms. However, there is a strong risk that complications could develop. For this reason, your doctor will likely refer you for surgical repair fairly promptly. The two main complications associated with an umbilical hernias include:
This is where a section of the bowel becomes stuck outside the abdomen, in the hernia sac. This is painful and can cause the patient to experience nausea and vomiting.
This is an emergency scenario where a section of the bowel becomes trapped and the blood supply to it is cut off. Urgent surgery is needed to release the bowel and restore its blood supply, otherwise, the section of bowel will die.
Laparoscopic surgery is now being used to replace open surgery in a variety of different procedures, including umbilical hernia repair. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive technique which enables surgeons to perform the necessary work through a series of small incisions rather than opening up a larger wound. A thin tube with a light and camera at the end, known as a laparoscope, is passed into the body through a small incision no more than 2cms in diameter. This transmits a real-time image back to a screen in the operating room. Specialist tools are then passed into the body though one or more other, small incisions, so that the surgery can be performed.
Once the necessary equipment is in place, our surgeon will gently place the bulging tissues back through the hernia in the abdominal wall and the hole that has allowed it to penetrate is sewn closed. In some cases, a synthetic mesh may be inserted into the abdomen to strengthen the area before it is sewn shut.
Laparoscopic umbilical hernia repair is performed under a general anesthetic. This means that you will need to wake up from the anesthetic after surgery – something which can take several hours to completely wear off, and may leave you feeling groggy. However, in most instances’ patients can expect to go home the same day.
You will be given instructions on how to keep your wounds clean and dry, and since they are so small compared to those seen in open surgeries, they should heal fairly quickly. Most patients can return to their usual activities within a few weeks of their procedure, but it is essential that you follow the post-operative instructions given to you by our surgical team.
Some of the key benefits of laparoscopic surgery include:
Less risk of complications such as bleeding and infection
Faster healing and recovery
Less discomfort and need for pain relief during the recovery stage
An overall superior patient experience
If you would like to learn more about umbilical hernia repair, or if you would like to make an appointment with our surgical team to see if you are a suitable candidate for this procedure, please contact our office today.