Skip to main content

Umbilical hernia

We share critical information umbilical hernias in adults.

An operating team performing a paraumbilical and umbilical hernia repair
An umbilical hernia is a painless lump which can appear in or close to your bellybutton.

According to the NHS, umbilical hernias are common in young children and especially premature babies. However, umbilical hernia in adults can also occur.

If left untreated, this type of hernia can lead to complications such as an obstruction, where a part of your bowel has entered the hernia and become blocked outside of your abdomen (stomach) or the blood supply to your bowel is blocked by strangulation. Fortunately, umbilical hernia repair is an option.

Umbilical hernias have several symptoms, including include a bloated abdomen accompanied by a general soreness and pain around the hernia.

Umbilical hernia pain in adults and children varies.

If the hernia is large, then the pain will be extended out generally across the stomach area. Redness will also be a symptom around the herniated area. A small umbilical hernia will likely be painless, but could develop over time.

No, hernias will not heal on their own. They need surgical repair.

Yes, umbilical hernia pain and discomfort can also lead to nausea. Some people might also feel tired.

In children, this type of hernia may also lead to behavioural changes in eating or drinking.

Fever can be a symptom in both adults and children resulting from this hernia.

These include fever, vomiting and abdominal pain and tenderness.

Your Consultant will tell you if you have symptoms of a strangulated umbilical hernia, which occurs when the blood supply to a section of organ or tissue trapped in the hernia has become cut off.

Although a strangulated hernia is rare, it can be life-threatening, so you need to be aware of its symptoms if you have a hernia.

An umbilical hernia is not dangerous in itself, but can lead to complications such as strangulation.

This is why it's important to see your doctor if you have any symptoms of strangulation, which include acute pain that comes on suddenly, a fever and sickness.

If any of these symptoms do occur, you need to speak to your doctor right away.

Umbilical hernias mostly occur in infants and children. These hernias are usually caused by a failure of the umbilical cord and naval to close after birth, but these hernias often naturally repair after a couple of months. If not, they can be treated with umbilical hernia surgery.

The primary causes for these hernias are similar. If your mother had multiple pregnancies before your birth, there is an increased likelihood of a failure to develop the inguinal canal during growth in the womb. This means that an umbilical hernia is more likely to develop.

Similarly, a premature birth means that the abdominal wall is more likely to be underdeveloped.

Obesity can increase the risk of umbilical hernias. Due to the increased abdominal pressure from the build-up of fat around the belly button, it can force the intestine out around weak spots that develop in the muscles of the abdominal wall. This can occur both in young children and later in life.

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. An umbilical hernia surgical repair can be generally treated by either open surgery or with laparoscopic surgery (key-hole surgery). 

Generally, surgeons prefer key-hole surgery as it is quicker, less invasive, and means you can recover quicker. The time between diagnosis and private hernia surgery is often less than a month, ensuring you receive rapid treatment. The surgery will differ from patient to patient. It is especially dependent on the age of the patient.

Umbilical repair surgery usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Firstly, your Consultant will make a small incision near your umbilicus. They will free up the ‘hernial sac’, place the contents back inside your abdomen and remove the hernial sac.

Using a lightweight, synthetic mesh, your Consultant will then push the hernia back into the body and cover it in a lightweight synthetic mesh which strengthens the abdominal wall, preventing the hernia from popping out. This technique is referred to as an umbrella hernia repair.

Previous patients who have received this treatment with mesh have recommended it rather than a manual pulling of the muscles together to heal the weakness, which can be more intrusive.

This less invasive surgery takes 45 minutes from start to finish, and is a day case, meaning you can arrive and leave on the day of the surgery.

However, as mentioned, this surgery can differ owing to the age of the patient. Your clinician can offer more specific advice for your treatment.

The main benefit of having surgery is that you should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent the serious complications that a hernia can cause and allow you to return to normal activities.

In children under the age of four, umbilical hernias tend to close.

However, for older children and adults, surgery is recommended as it is the only dependable way to cure the condition.

Yes, you will have a scar that should heal naturally within four to six weeks.

Like all surgical procedures, there are risk factors to consider. Some of these can be serious. You can speak to your Consultant about the following general and specific complications that may worry you.

General complications of any operation

Specific complications of this operation

  • Developing a collection of blood (haematoma) or fluid (seroma) under your wound;
  • Injury to structures within your abdomen, and
  • Removing your umbilicus (belly button).

If there are no complications during the surgery, you should be able to go home the same day (hours after surgery).

You will need to gradually increase how much you walk over the first few days.

You should be able to return to work after two to four weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your field of work.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible, but you should avoid strenuous activities. During the recovery period, you should also avoid constipation by maintaining a balanced diet. This is to avoid straining your abdominal muscles and slowing down the speed of your healing.

Before you start exercising, call your doctor or ask your healthcare team for any additional information about how to exercise appropriately.

They will also offer information about what to eat after umbilical hernia surgery, how to sleep after umbilical hernia surgery, and the general do's and don'ts after umbilical hernia surgery.

Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities. However, the hernia can come back.

A hernia near your umbilicus is a common condition caused by a weakness in your abdominal wall.

If left untreated, a hernia near your umbilicus can cause serious complications.

Book an appointment online, or find out more by calling us on  0141 300 5009.


  • Author: Mr Simon Parsons DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)

Specialists offering Paraumbilical and umbilical hernia repair in adults

View all specialists

{{ error }}

Find a specialist