Hernia Repair – Umbilical

This page will provide you with information about umbilical hernia repair. For further details, please speak to your consultant.

What is an umbilical hernia?

An umbilical hernia is characterised by a painless lump around the navel. This may get bigger when you cough, laugh or go to the toilet. It can appear to shrink when lying down.

They are common in small children and infants; particularly premature babies. Most of the time the umbilical hernia goes back into place and the muscle heals over before the child turns one.

They can, however, develop in adults and adult hernias usually need to be treated or they can worsen.

What causes umbilical hernias?

During pregnancy the umbilical cord passes through an opening in the baby’s tummy (the abdominal region). This opening usually closes after birth but the muscles occasionally fail to seal properly. This means a weak spot exists in the muscle wall which can lead to fatty tissue or a section of bowel passing through – this is an umbilical hernia.

In adults, being overweight or obese, straining when lifting or shifting heavy objects, having a multiple pregnancy (e.g. twins, triplets etc.) or having a constant heavy cough can all lead to the development of an umbilical hernia.

When is an umbilical hernia repair required?

If a child has a particularly large hernia, or a hernia that has not gone when they reach four or five years of age, then surgery may be recommended to push the hernia back.

Most adults will be recommended surgery as complications can arise and the hernia is far less likely to heal itself, like they often do in children.

Complications of an umbilical hernia include:

  • Strangulation: when a section of bowel gets trapped by the hernia causing its blood supply to diminish. This can lead to the section of bowel dying if surgery is not performed quickly.
  • Obstruction: when part of the bowel gets stuck outside the abdominal wall; this causes nausea, vomiting and some pain.

Surgery will treat the hernia and prevent these complications from arising. However, hernias can reappear after surgery.

What will happen during the operation?

Umbilical hernia repair is a quick operation that lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. The surgeon will make a 2-3cm incision at the base of the belly button. From this they will push the fatty lump or section of bowel that has come forward back into the abdomen. The muscle will then be stitched back and sometimes a mesh will be placed on the weak spot to help strengthen it in the future. The incision made by the surgeon will then be stitched back together with dissolvable stitches or surgical glue. A pressure dressing may be applied and will stay on for 5 days.

Risks or complications

Any risks or complications will be discussed in advance of your treatment with your expert consultant.


General anaesthetic can take a short amount of time to wear off, so most patients experience a lack of co-ordination and diminished mental capacities for a while. It is best not to drink alcohol, sign legal documents or drive for the first 2 days after surgery.

Normal activities can be resumed after a short amount of time when the patient no longer experiences pain while carrying out tasks. Light activities like walking or general exercise can be resumed after one or two weeks and can help with recovery. Heavy lifting and more intense exercise should be avoided for between four to six weeks.

A child that has had an umbilical hernia repair should stay off school for a week and partake in no sports for a fortnight.

An adult that has had an umbilical hernia repair can usually return to work within a fortnight unless the job involves manual labour or strenuous activities.

It is best to avoid driving until the individual can make an emergency stop without feeling any pain or feeling uncomfortable. This may take up to a fortnight.

Patients should check their insurance policy for details about coverage after an operation.




EIDO Healthcare Limited – The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.