The umbilicus (aka “belly button”) is where the umbilical cord attaches to the abdominal wall during fetal development. The nutrient blood vessels pass through this site, and after delivery, should close and seal. This results in a discrete full thickness scar that may be a site of weakness, or contain a small defect. Over time, this may stretch and enlarge, resulting in a visible and palpable bulge at or near the umbilicus. What was once an “inny” may slowly become an “outty”!
Umbilical hernias are usually easily identified and repaired while still relatively small.
Almost always this is performed using a mesh implant that is inserted behind the defect, through a small curved incision at the edge of the umbilicus. Most umbilical repairs can be performed as an outpatient at an ambulatory surgery facility. Larger defects may be amenable to a laparoscopic approach. When repaired with an appropriate patch by an experienced hernia surgeon, and with proper post-surgical follow-up and monitoring, most persons with umbilical hernias return to full activities in one to two weeks.