Inguinal hernia factsheet


A hernia is when part of an organ or body tissue bulges through an opening or weakness in your child’s abdomen.

An inguinal hernia is when part of the stomach bulges through to the groin. The groin is the part of your child’s body where the top of their thighs meets the bottom of their abdomen.

Inguinal hernias are common in children. One-third of hernias in children will be found before 6 months of age, and they are usually found on the right side.

Babies born prematurely can have a higher risk of hernia, and they are 4 times more likely to happen in male children.

Hernias can become hard, stuck, or unable to be pushed back into the abdomen. This is called an irreducible hernia. When this happens, there is a high risk of the blood supply being blocked. This is a medical emergency and needs to be treated with surgery. 

 Signs and symptoms

An inguinal hernia can look like a lump in your child’s groin area. The lump can come and go and be more noticeable if your child is crying or straining.

The lump can also move down to:

  • the scrotum – a pouch of skin behind the penis shaft that holds the testicles
  • the labia – the inner and outer lips around the opening of the vagina.


Your child’s doctor will check their symptoms and their groin area. Your child may need to have an ultrasound scan to see where their organs are sitting.


Inguinal hernias will rarely go away on their own.

The inguinal hernia is usually treated with surgery to lower the risk of: 

  • the hernia becoming stuck
  • blood supply to the organs being blocked
  • damage to the tissue and organs.

Inguinal hernia repair surgery

Your child’s doctor will usually refer you to a surgeon to repair the hernia.

This procedure is done in the hospital while your child is under a general anaesthetic. This means they will be asleep and will not feel any pain.

In the inguinal hernia repair surgery:

  1. the surgeon makes a small cut in the groin
  2. the tissue and organs that are bulging are pushed back into the abdomen
  3. the weak or opened muscle will be closed with stitches that will dissolve under the skin.

Your child will have a scar in the crease of their groin after the procedure. The scar will fade as your child grows, but it will not go away.

If your child recovers well after the procedure, they can go home the same day.

Very young or premature babies will need to stay overnight in the hospital.

Your child’s doctor will make an appointment to check on the hernia repair about a week after going home from the hospital.


Managing your child’s hernia repair at home

Your child will need to rest at home after the procedure and take pain relief when needed, following the doctor’s instructions closely.

Most children can return to normal activities a few days after the procedure. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about the type of activity your child should be doing.

When to seek help

See your local doctor as soon as possible if your child has signs of infection, including:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • fever
  • bad smelling discharge coming from the surgery wound.
Last updated Thursday 18th January 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024