An abnormal bulging or protrusion of tissue or an organ through an abnormal opening. The most common type of hernia is an inguinal hernia. It is seen more often in boys, but it can be present occasionally in girls. The testes develop inside the abdomen and migrate through the inguinal canal and into the scrotum. The inguinal canal is the passageway from the abdomen into the scrotum and is bounded by membranes and muscle. When the inguinal canal does not completely close or re-opens, intestine can travel down the passageway and a hernia develops.
In most full-term babies the inguinal canal seals over before birth. In prematurely born infants, the canal is opened by the pressure of the baby crying and the increased abdominal pressure associated with feedings and life outside the uterus. The incidence of hernias is about 15 percent among prematurely born infants. It may be higher in those who are extremely premature.
The only way to correct a hernia is to surgically repair it. The anesthesia risks of the procedure are lessened if repair is delayed until about five months of age; however, hernia repairs are often performed in infants at much younger ages, if necessary, without complications. For some infants a combination of a local and spinal anesthetic can be used instead of general anesthesia. This combination of anesthetics reduces the risk of apnea following anesthesia and surgery.