Many umbilical hernias close spontaneously by ages 3 to 4. If closure does not occur by this time, surgical repair is usually advised. In younger children, if there is an episode of incarceration or if the hernia is very large, surgical repair may be recommended.
Surgery to repair the hernia is performed under general anesthesia.
A small incision is made at the base of the belly button. If any intestine is present in the hernia, it is placed back into the abdominal cavity. The opening in the muscle is then repaired with multiple layers of stitches to prevent another hernia. A dressing is placed to keep the belly button flat.
While premature infants and children with certain medical conditions may require overnight observation in the hospital, most children are able to return home within a few hours after surgery.