A groin or inguinal hernia is a bulge in the groin area. It is created when soft tissue pushes through a weak spot in the abdomen wall. Sometimes soft tissue also passes down a canal that connects the scrotum to the abdominal area. This canal is called the inguinal canal.
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A groin hernia in children can be caused by:
- A large inguinal canal
- A weakened area in the lower abdominal muscles
Groin hernias are more common in boys than girls. Factors that may increase the risk of groin hernias include:
- Birth defect that affects the abdominal wall
- Family history of groin hernias
- Premature birth
- Open inguinal canal
- Chronic respiratory condition
- Previous hernia on other side
A bulge is the most common symptom. It may be easier to see this bulge when your child is crying. If your child is relaxed, the bulge may look smaller. Your child may also have some occasional pain in the area.
Hernias can sometimes get caught in the abdominal wall. This is called a strangulated hernia which can lead to more serious symptoms such as:
- Severe pain in the groin or abdomen
- Rapid heart beat
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
A strangulated hernia requires emergency care.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. The doctor will be able to feel your child’s hernia. Other conditions will be ruled out.
An ultrasound may also be done to create images inside your body.
Most groin hernias require surgery. The surgery may be:
- Open surgery—an incision is made over the area so the doctor has access to the tissue. May be needed if there are complications.
- Laparoscopic surgery—small incisions are made so specialized tools can be used to make the repairs.
If your premature baby has a groin hernia, surgery may be postponed for several months.
A groin hernia due to a birth defect cannot be prevented.
Children’s Hospital Boston. Hernia (umbilical or inguinal). Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at:
http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1018/mainpageS1018P0.html. Accessed June 24, 2013.
Cincinnati Children’s. Inguinal hernia. Cincinnati Children’s website. Available at:
http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/info/abdomen/diagnose/inguinal-hernia.htm. Updated December 20, 2010. Accessed June 24, 2013.
Groin hernia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated November 5, 2012. Accessed June 24, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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