What is an inguinal hernia or a hydrocoele?
A hernia is an outpouching of bowel that occurs when there is a weakening in the abdominal muscles. When male babies develop, the testes are formed in the abdomen. They then migrate down into the scrotum from the abdomen via a canal called the processus vaginalis.
In normal development, this canal should close. However, in some cases this does not happen, and abdominal contents may then travel down this communication. This is called an inguinal hernia. Fluid from the abdomen may also travel down this canal into the scrotum – this is called a hydrocele.
What causes inguinal hernias and how common are they?
Inguinal hernias occur due to failure of closure of the canal down which the testes descend from the abdomen where they develop into the scrotum. They are more common in preterm infants and in boys and occur in approximately 1% to 5% of children.
How are inguinal hernias diagnosed?
An inguinal hernia is diagnosed through clinical examination by your child’s doctor. They will examine the swelling in the scrotum and may also use a light to see if the swelling is caused by fluid – this is known as a hydrocoele.
How are inguinal hernias treated?
Inguinal hernias are treated with an operation which involves putting your child to sleep with a general anaesthetic. This operation can be carried out through a keyhole (laparoscopic surgery) or open surgery.
What are the risks?
- Damage to testicular cord and blood vessel
- Complications related to anaesthetic
- Recurrence of the hernia
Untreated inguinal hernias carry a risk of the blood supply to the intestines being cut off – this is known as a strangulated hernia
What happens after the operation?
- Recovering from anaesthetic
- Dressing changes and follow up appointments
- Pain relief – usual pain medication – paracetamol and ibuprofen is usually sufficient
- Return to activity including sports
- Return to school
Please contact the ward if:
There is increasing pain not helped with medication half an hour after giving it.
If the wound site looks red, hot, swollen or there is any oozing.
If your child develops a high temperature.