What Is an Abdominal Wall Hernia?

Stephany Seipel

An abdominal wall hernia occurs when a weak area inside the abdominal wall allows part of the intestine or other tissue to protrude through the wall, often creating a noticeable bulge below the skin. Patients might experience pain, nausea or vomiting, depending on the type of hernia. Doctors treat the condition with surgery.

Incisional hernias occur after a patient undergoes abdominal surgery.
Incisional hernias occur after a patient undergoes abdominal surgery.

Incisional hernias occur after a patient undergoes abdominal surgery. A bulge forms at the site of the incision several months or even several years after an operation. The patient is at higher risk of developing this type of abdominal wall hernia if he or she is overweight, if he or she suffers from diabetes or if the surgical wound became infected.

A doctor can often diagnose an abdominal wall hernia by performing a physical exam.
A doctor can often diagnose an abdominal wall hernia by performing a physical exam.

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Femoral hernias usually occur in women. The femoral canal, which is a compartment near the top of the thigh, is a weak spot in the abdominal wall. Tissue or part of the intestines bulge through the wall. Pregnancy, obesity, constipation and carrying heavy loads can cause femoral hernias.

A weak area of an abdominal wall can allow an intestine or other organ to protrude, resulting in a hernia.
A weak area of an abdominal wall can allow an intestine or other organ to protrude, resulting in a hernia.

Umbilical hernias are more prevalent in premature babies and young children. The area around the navel does not close after the umbilical cord falls off, and a growth forms above or below the navel. Adults who lift heavy loads or cough often might develop this type of abdominal wall hernia.

Groin or inguinal hernias tend to form in men. Part of the intestinal tract protrudes through the scrotum or groin, creating a lump below the skin. Older or obese men are at higher risk than other demographics.

Hiatus hernias occur most frequently in women who are more than 50 years old, as well as in smokers. The hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm. The stomach can push through this weak point and distend into the chest cavity.

Epigastric hernias occur when fatty tissue becomes trapped inside the abdominal tear. Spigelian hernias form in the abdominal wall muscles. Obturator hernias usually affect women. The hernia forms in the pelvic cavity and causes a blockage of the bowels.

An abdominal wall hernia can be life-threatening. Sometimes the intestine becomes strangled inside the hernia, and no blood can get to the affected area. The intestinal tissue dies and becomes gangrenous in only a few hours, resulting in eventual death if it is left untreated.

A doctor can often diagnose an abdominal wall hernia by performing a physical examination or ultrasound procedure. Strangulated hernias need to be repaired immediately. The doctor will schedule the patient for surgery at a time that is convenient for the individual if the situation is not urgent. Some umbilical hernias do not require treatment and will self-repair.

Groin hernias occur more commonly in men.
Groin hernias occur more commonly in men.

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