Adult umbilical hernia should be treated with surgery to prevent complications such as a bowel infection. However, it is more common in infants and in these cases no specific treatment is required because it disappears on its own until 5 years of age.
Umbilical hernia is characterized by a bulging in or around the navel, which is formed by fat or a portion of the small or large intestine that has been able to cross the abdomen muscle due to increased abdominal pressure in overweight cases, for example.
Usually, the umbilical hernia hurts and can cause nausea and vomiting, especially when doing some kind of effort, such as lifting a heavy box or bending down to pick up an object from the floor.
How is the surgery for umbilical hernia
Prior to surgery, the surgeon should order preoperative tests such as chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, urine and stools, as well as blood count, blood glucose, urea and creatine.
The treatment for umbilical hernia is always surgery, called herniorrhaphy, which is a simple surgery that can be done through a cut in the abdominal region or by laparoscopy. In some cases a safety net may be left at the surgery region to prevent the hernia from returning.
Surgery can be performed on children older than 5 years of age, in the NHS (UK) or in private clinics (US), by 2 different methods: laparoscopy or a cut in the abdomen.
Surgery with cut in the abdomen requires epidural anesthesia. After the cut, the hernia is pushed into the belly and the abdominal wall is closed with stitches. Usually the doctor places a screen in the area to prevent a new hernia from appearing on the region.
When the doctor opts for laparoscopic surgery there is a need for general anesthesia and 3 small 'holes' are made in the abdomen to allow the microcamera and other instruments that the doctor needs to push the hernia into place, also placing the screen to prevent it from reappearing.
How is recovery done
In the case of laparoscopic surgery the recovery is faster and usually you only need to be hospitalized for 1 or 2 days and can return to your usual activities in 2 weeks. In this case the surgery scar is very small, there is less postoperative pain and the risk of infection is lower.
Some important precautions until you are fully recovered are:
- Avoid picking up objects heavier than 5kg during the first month after surgery and up to 10 kg 3 months later;
- Put your hand or a pillow over the stitches if you need to cough;
- Your diet may be normal, but if it is high in fiber it may make defecation easier, causing less pain;
- Driving is recommended only when you do not feel abdominal pain about 3 to 5 days after surgery;
- You can bathe even with the surgery dressing. Go to the doctor if the area looks infected, such as foul-smelling, red, with discharge and pus.
Wearing a brace can also help you have greater comfort. This umbilical hernia brace can be purchased at hospital supply stores or over the internet.
How to facilitate healing after surgery
Eating foods high in lean protein, such as egg, chicken breast and fish, is a great way to promote tissue growth close to the surgical wound. Also, drink plenty of fluids to keep your skin well hydrated and elastic. However foods known as 'rhinestones' that should be avoided are those high in sugar or fat, such as ham, sausage, pork, bacon and fried foods, because they make healing difficult.
Avoid weight gain, smoking, carbonated or alcoholic drinks, and keep pressure under control, as all these factors contribute to the formation of a new hernia.