Groin Hernia—ChildEn Español (Spanish Version)
A groin (or inguinal) hernia is an external bulge in the groin area. The hernia can be made up of fat, connective tissue, or a part of the intestine. This tissue can bulge through a weak spot in the lower part of the abdomen. It can also come down the canal that connects the scrotum to the main abdominal cavity (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
Risk factors include:
- Birth defect that affects the abdominal wall
- Gender: male (much more common in boys than in girls)
- Family history of groin hernias
- Premature birth
Placement of a shunt for
(fluid in the brain)
- Chronic respiratory condition
- A bulge in the groin area—It may be easier to see this bulge when your child is crying. If your child is relaxed, the bulge may look smaller.
- Pain in this area
If the hernia is caught in part of the abdominal wall, your child could have more serious symptoms that require emergency care, such as:
- Severe pain in the groin or abdomen
- Rapid heart beat
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Talk to the doctor if your child has any of these.
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 (like swelling of the scrotum or an abscess) will be ruled out.
An ultrasound may also be done. This uses sound waves to make pictures of structures in the body.
Most groin hernias require surgery after the diagnosis is made. There are different types of surgeries. For example, the defect in the abdominal wall can be repaired by making a large incision over the hernia site. The doctor may do laparoscopic surgery, where several tiny incisions are made and small tools are used.
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.
American College of Physicians
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Children’s Hospital Boston. Hernia (umbilical or inguinal). Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at:
. Accessed July 13, 2010.
Cincinnati Children’s. Inguinal hernia. Cincinnati Children’s website. Available at:
. Accessed July 13, 2010.
DynaMed Editorial Team. Groin hernia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated June 18, 2010. Accessed July 13, 2010.
Scholten A. Groin hernia. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at:
. Updated September 30, 2009. Accessed July 13, 2010.
Last Reviewed June 2012