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Understanding Your Child's Inguinal (Groin) Hernia Repair

Closeup of male baby's lower abdomen showing incision location in groin.

A groin hernia is when a small sac of intestine or fat pokes through a weak area of muscle into the lower abdomen. The weak area of muscle is formed that way before birth. The sac is formed by tissue that lines the abdomen. This kind of hernia usually happens on one side of the groin. It is felt as a bulge under the skin.

Groin hernias are common in children. They happen most often in boys. They don't go away on their own. If left untreated, the hernia can cause a serious problem. Groin hernias in children can be repaired with surgery in about 1 hour. Most children go home the same day and get better quickly.

Questions you may have

It’s normal to have concerns about your child’s surgery. Here are answers to some common questions:

  • Is surgery safe? Yes. Complications from hernia surgery are rare. In fact, most children get back to their normal life in a short time.

  • Will my child be in pain during surgery? No. Your child will be given medicines that make him or her sleep during surgery. Some mild discomfort after the surgery is normal.

  • Is surgery always needed? Yes. If a groin hernia is not treated, part of the intestine can become trapped. This means the blood to that part of the intestine is cut off. It is a medical emergency and needs treatment right away. Having repair surgery will prevent this problem from happening.

Preparing your child for surgery

Follow your healthcare provider's advice to help get your child ready for surgery.

  • Tell the healthcare provider about any medicines your child takes. These include children’s pain relievers, vitamins, and other supplements.

  • Come with your child to tests. These may include urine and blood tests.

  • Don't let your child eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery.

The day of surgery

You’ll meet with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. He or she will talk with you about the anesthesia used to prevent pain during surgery. Your child will be given an IV (intravenous) to provide fluids and medicines. This may occur in the operating room while your child is receiving anesthesia through a mask.

During the surgery

The surgery may be done with laparoscopic methods. This uses 2 or 3 tiny incisions and a small tool called a laparoscope. Or it may be done with open surgery. This is done through one larger incision. The surgeon will talk with you about which method is best for your child.

Your child’s recovery

Your child can likely go home the same day as the surgery. Once at home, give your child pain relievers as instructed. Care for the incision area and bandage as advised. A small amount of swelling and bruising is normal and will go away in a short time. Don't let your child shower, take a bath, or get in a swimming pool or hot tub until the healthcare provider says it’s OK. Have your child rest as needed. Most children can go back to normal activity in a couple of days. To help speed recovery, encourage your child to move around. If you have questions or concerns, talk with the healthcare provider during follow-up visits.

Risks and possible complications

Hernia surgery for children is safe, but does have some risks. These include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Numbness or pain in the groin or leg

  • Inability to urinate

  • Risk the hernia will recur

  • Bowel or bladder injury

  • Problems from the mesh

  • Damage to the testicles or ovaries

  • Anesthesia risks

When to call your child's healthcare provider

After surgery, call your child's healthcare provider if your child has any of the following:

  • A large amount of swelling or bruising

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Increasing redness or drainage of the incision

  • Bleeding

  • Increasing pain

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • No bowel movement for 3 days after surgery

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.