Hernia in Premature Babies

A baby born too soon sometimes comes with it many complexities.  This need not be the case with all premature babies, only some.  But the fact remains that most of their body structures will still be fragile and sensitive, increasing their susceptibilities to developing health complications.

Hernia – A preterm baby can get affected by a condition called hernia.  This is a protrusion of an organ through the wall of an internal body cavity in which the organ is normally enclosed.

There are different types of hernia that a child can develop during their early period of existence.  These are as follows –

Inguinal Hernia – Also known as groin hernia, this is something that occurs only in male infants.  The hernia development happens during the process of testes descent.  The testes normally develop within the infant’s abdomen, before they lower down.  This lowering process takes place in the womb itself, during seven months of pregnancy.  The testes descend down into the scrotum, through the abdominal wall.  They pass the abdominal wall via a small hole, through the inguinal canal and then lower into the scrotum, which is an external pouch.  Once this is complete, the opening of the hole will close on its own.  If this closure fails to take place, it will result in inguinal hernia.

–       Symptoms – A small bulge will be noticeable in the infant’s groin area, which becomes more prominent when the child cries in distress, or stretches their body to maximum extension.

–       Treatment – This is a condition that does not resolve on its own.  It will require surgical interventions and earlier done, the better for the baby.  The medical team will generally prefer doing the surgery once the baby is discharged from the NICU, where a preemie baby will be sent to soon after birth.

Normal feeding and bathing rituals can be resumed after the operation is done.  The parent will also need to shower the baby with extra care and attention to keep him more comfortable.

Umbilical Hernia – This is a common condition in newborns, especially preemies, that occurs in the middle of the infant’s abdomen, precisely, the navel region.  The ‘ring’ around the umbilicus of an infant closes before it arrives into the world.  Since, premature infants chooses to arrive much too early than expected, this does not happen as it should, permitting intestinal fluids and fats to pass through causing a bulge near the belly button.

–       Symptoms – A small cherry sized bulge where the navel should becomes visible.  It generally will appear red and irritated and sometimes may feel hard to the touch.

–       Treatment – This should resolve on its own before the infant reaches two years of age.  If not, surgery will be the only option.

Hiatus Hernia – In this condition, the stomach thrusts forward through the diaphragm (a muscle situated underneath the lungs), at the point where the esophagus makes its way through.

–       Symptoms – A common symptom is acid reflux or the flowing back of intestinal contents into the esophagus.

–       Treatment – This usually will not require any treatment if it does not cause any major symptoms.  If the hernia protrusion is massive in a preemie, bringing forth several complications, then feedings will need to be done via a tube until it is corrected surgically.