Umbilical hernias in babies: Expert advice

Written by: Mr Anindya Niyogi
Edited by: Kate Forristal

An umbilical hernia is a common condition in infants that manifests as a weakness in the abdominal wall at the site of the umbilicus, allowing the bowel to protrude. This results in a noticeable bulge at the umbilicus, which tends to become more prominent when the baby cries. While this condition may cause concern for parents, it's important to understand the underlying reasons and the overall prognosis. In his latest online article, Mr Anindya Niyogi gives us his insights.

Causes of umbilical hernias in babies:

The umbilical cord, crucial for supplying oxygen and nutrients to the developing foetus, is attached to the umbilicus. Before birth, the placenta delivers essential elements to the baby through two umbilical arteries and one umbilical vein. After birth, these vessels typically close, and the umbilicus seals with scar tissue. However, in some cases, the closure process is incomplete, leading to a weakened area where the bowel can protrude.


Timing of umbilical hernia appearance:

Contrary to popular belief, babies are not born with umbilical hernias. This condition becomes apparent only after the umbilical cord naturally falls off, usually within the first few weeks of life. Parents may notice the characteristic bulge when the baby cries, as the increased intra-abdominal pressure can exacerbate the hernia's appearance.


Severity and complications:

Fortunately, umbilical hernias in infants are generally not considered serious, and complications are rare. However, there is a minimal risk of incarceration, where the protruded bowel cannot be easily pushed back into the abdomen. While this is an infrequent occurrence, it highlights the importance of monitoring the hernia and seeking medical attention if any concerning symptoms arise.


Pain and discomfort in infants:

In most cases, umbilical hernias do not cause pain or discomfort for infants. It's crucial for parents to recognise that the bulging of the hernia when the baby cries is a natural response to increased abdominal pressure and not necessarily an indication of distress related to the hernia itself.


When to worry and treatment recommendations:

Most umbilical hernias tend to resolve spontaneously as the child grows. The National Health Service (NHS) recommends considering surgical intervention around the age of 4-5 years for persisting hernias. Early surgical correction is particularly advised for cases of incarcerated hernias, where prompt medical attention is essential to avoid complications.


Mr Anindya Niyogi is an esteemed consultant paediatric surgeon. You can schedule an appointment with Mr Niyogi on his Top Doctors profile.

By Mr Anindya Niyogi
Paediatric surgery

Mr Anindya Niyogi is a highly experienced and skilled consultant paediatric surgeon who specialises in hernia surgery, undescended testicles, laparoscopy, umbilical hernia surgery, constipation, as well as neonatal surgery, but to mention a few. He currently practises at the London-based King's College Hospital (Guthrie Clinic). Additionally, Mr Niyogi provides outreach services at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, and Maidstone Hospital in Kent. 
Prior to moving to the UK Mr Niyogi trained as a radiologist, allowing him to carry out ultrasound-guided interventions and gained experience working in major trauma centres. Mr Niyogi,trained in GI surgery at Alder Hey Children's ospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and the Great North Children’s Hospital. He first took up his current position as consultant paediatric surgeon at King's College Hospital in late 2020, is the current GMC PLAB examiner and station management member who is directly responsible for providing courses in surgical development and skills for the Royal College of Surgeons. He is also a co-founder and a faculty member of the SPRINT international virtual education programme. He holds numerous memberships to prestigious associations, including being a founding member of The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM). 
One of Mr Niyogi's main areas of clinical research interest is lower GI, and he is more than capable of performing anorectal reconstructions and laparoscopic-assisted pull-through for Hirschsprung’s disease. To date, Mr Niyogi has gained an extensive amount of experience when it comes to performing cloaca reconstruction and ileoanal pouch formation. He is also an expert in relation to inserting percutaneous central lines in premature neonates. In terms of neonatal surgery, Mr Niyogi possesses the know-how and expertise to allow him to perform a tight anastomosis in oesophageal atresia, repair a diaphragmatic hernia with a patch, and make difficult surgical decisions in the area of necrotising enterocolitis. 

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