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At UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of this surgery and we invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about the surgery and how you can help.
An inguinal (IN-gwa-nul) hernia is an internal opening in the inguinal canal, which is located within the abdominal or belly wall. In boys, the inguinal canal is a passageway between the abdomen and the scrotum—the sac of skin that holds the testicles on the outside of the body. The testicles are attached to a cord called the spermatic cord, which passes through the inguinal canal. Before birth, a baby boy’s testicles are located high inside his belly. As the baby develops inside the mother, his testicles drop down through this passageway into the scrotum. In girls, the inguinal canal is the passageway for a ligament that holds the uterus in place. Whether in a boy or a girl, the passageway or opening usually closes up by itself before the baby is born. If it does not, a pouch may form in the inner lining of the belly. That pouch is called an inguinal hernia.
Although both boys and girls can have inguinal hernias, they are much more common in boys than girls. Often the hernia goes undetected for years because of its small size, and may not be noticed until a child is in his or her teens. Usually, inguinal hernias are found by pediatricians during routine physical exams. Nearly all cases of inguinal hernias are congenital (con-JEN-it-tool), meaning that they were present at birth. Straining, coughing or crying may make the hernia more visible, but they are not the cause of the hernia. Inguinal hernias in children are not the same as hernias or “ruptures” that adults may get from straining or lifting.
Inguinal hernia repair is one of the most common surgeries done on babies and children. Most inguinal hernias can be repaired as an “elective” surgery, which means that surgery can be scheduled at the parents’ earliest convenience.
General anesthesia (an-es-THEEZ-ya) makes your child’s whole body go to sleep and is needed for inguinal hernia repair so that his reflexes will be completely relaxed. General anesthesia makes the surgery easier and safer to do because your child will not feel any pain or have any memory of it.
Caudal (COD-ool) anesthesia is given with general anesthesia to block pain in the low back, belly and lower trunk area and provides up to 4 hours of pain relief in that area after the surgery. Caudal anesthesia is usually intended for younger children or those having hernias repaired on both sides.
When general anesthesia is needed, there are important rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the surgery. One business day before your child’s surgery, you will receive a phone call from a surgical nurse between the hours of 1 and 9 p.m. (Nurses do not make these calls on weekends or holidays.) Please have paper and a pen ready to write down these important instructions.
For children older than 12 months:
For infants under 12 months:
For all children:
The most important role of a parent or guardian is to help your child stay calm and relaxed before the surgery. The best way to keep your child calm is for you to stay calm.
Once your child has been registered for the surgery, a nurse, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant and a member of the anesthesia staff will meet with you to take your child’s vital signs, weight and medical history. As the parent or legal guardian, you will be asked to sign a consent form before the anesthesia is given.
Surgery to fix the hernia is done in an operating room. A small incision (in-SIZH-yun) or cut is made over the area of the hernia, usually in one of the skin folds.
While your child is asleep, his or her heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen level will be checked continuously.
When your child is moved to the recovery room, you will be called so that you can be there as he or she wakes up.
After your child is discharged and goes home, he or she may still be groggy and should take it easy for the day.
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the doctor needs to know about, please call your doctor’s office and ask to speak with a nurse. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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