What is inguinal hernia repair in children?

Inguinal Hernia Repair in Children
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How is surgery used to treat an inguinal hernia in children?

In most cases, a child with an inguinal hernia will need surgery.

Infants 12 months of age and younger who have these hernias have a much higher risk of strangulation of the intestine than older children and adults. So surgery for these hernias in infants isn't delayed like it can be for adults.

  • Synthetic patches aren't needed to repair an inguinal hernia in an infant.
  • Some infants with these hernias may need to have surgery in a hospital rather than in an outpatient setting. This includes infants who have lung problems, seizure disorders, or heart diseases from birth. It also includes those who were born early (premature).

There are two types of surgery to repair inguinal hernias. They are:

  • Open inguinal hernia repair.
  • Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair.

How can you care for your child after an inguinal hernia repair surgery?


  • Have your child rest when he or she feels tired. Getting enough sleep will help your child recover.
  • Have your child walk a little more each day. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area of your child's hernia repair for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 24 hours (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games, or take part in gym class until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Make sure your child avoids lifting anything that would make your child strain. This may include a heavy backpack, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, or bags of cat litter or dog food.
  • Most children are able to return to their normal routine 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.
  • Your child may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if the doctor okays it. Pat the cut (incision) dry. Your child must not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until the doctor tells you it is okay.


  • Your child can eat a normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids (unless the doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you think that pain medicine is making your child feel sick to his or her stomach:
    • Give the medicine after meals (unless the doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask the doctor for a different pain medicine.

Incision care

  • If your child's cut (incision) was closed with skin glue, the glue will wear off in a few days to 2 weeks. Do not put antibiotic ointment or cream on the glue.
  • If there are strips of tape on the cut the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • If there are staples closing the cut, you will need to see the doctor in 1 to 2 weeks to have them removed.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which may delay healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.

How do you prepare for your child's inguinal hernia repair surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Talk to your child about the surgery. Tell your child that the surgery will fix a problem in his or her groin. And it will stop any pain. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

The day before surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

After inguinal hernia repair surgery in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child is short of breath.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has pain that does not get better after he or she takes pain medicine.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Your child cannot pass stools or gas.
  • Your child is sick to the stomach and cannot drink fluids.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage.
  • Your child has signs of a blood clot in the leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in the leg or groin.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any problems.

After your child's inguinal hernia repair surgery: Overview

After surgery to repair a hernia, your child is likely to have pain for a few days. Your child may also feel tired and have less energy than normal. This is common.

Your child should feel better after a few days and will probably feel much better in 7 days. For several weeks your child may feel discomfort or pulling in the groin area when moving. Your child may have some bruising near the repair site and on their genitals. This is normal.

What happens on the day of your child's inguinal hernia repair surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the surgery may be canceled. If the doctor told you to have your child take his or her medicines on the day of surgery, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • See that your child has bathed. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush his or her teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
  • Be sure your child has something that reminds him or her of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by an anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take 1 to 2 hours.
  • After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor his or her condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.
  • You will probably be able to take your child home the same day as the surgery.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.