Umbilical Hernias

For most people who are living with the discomfort of an umbilical hernia, surgery is recommended to repair the problem. At Mount Sinai, our expert surgeons have extensive experience in procedures to treat umbilical hernias, using minimally invasive methods whenever possible.

About Umbilical Hernias

An umbilical hernia is a weakness that develops in the abdominal wall through and around the belly button, called the umbilicus. A bulge or sac containing fat or intestine pushes out through that weakness, sometimes causing an "outie" belly button. Most patients with umbilical hernias first notice a belly button bulge or discomfort. Over time these hernias can get larger and more uncomfortable as the hernia sac gets pushed out from inside the abdomen. Like other hernias, an umbilical hernia in an adult will not go away or get better without treatment.

Umbilical hernias carry the risk of becoming stuck or “incarcerated,” which could cause strong pain, nausea, vomiting, or the inability to pass gas from the rectum. This is an emergency, and if this happens, you should contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.

Umbilical hernias can be diagnosed by your doctor by listening to your history and performing a thorough physical examination.

Treatments for Umbilical Hernias

Because of the risk of incarceration and symptoms caused by the umbilical hernia, surgical repair is recommended for most patients. At Mount Sinai, surgical repair of small umbilical hernias is usually done using the traditional “open” surgery method. Larger umbilical hernias are classified as ventral hernias, and can be repaired with either “open” or laparoscopic techniques.

To repair an umbilical hernia, the surgeons at Mount Sinai make an incision within or below the belly button. A surgical mesh, or patch, is usually placed over the site of the hernia within the muscle in order to provide long-term strength to help prevent the hernia from recurring. As in any operation, complications such as bleeding, infection, injury to the intestines, blood clots, or heart or lung problems may occur. Your surgeon will recommend testing to determine if it is safe for you to have surgery.

After surgery, you are usually able to leave the hospital on the same day, and patients usually take about three to five days off work after an open umbilical hernia repair.Postoperative recovery depends on the size and difficulty of the hernia repair. Pain is controlled by medications prescribed to you upon discharge from Mount Sinai. You will be able to walk after the surgery and usually need about three weeks after surgery before resuming heavy physical activity.