Wednesday, 9 June 2010
ABC Wednesday U is for Umbilical hernia
During pregnancy the umbilical cord passes through an opening in the baby's abdominal wall. The opening usually closes before birth but sometimes the muscles don't close completely. An umbilical hernia occurs when a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue of the navel (umbilicus) allows internal organs to protrude. Many babies – around one in ten - are born with the condition and in most cases the gap will close naturally as the baby develops. By the age of three or four it should have healed. It is more common in boys and in premature babies whose abdominal muscles have not had time to finish growing before birth.
It is thought that the chances of complications, such as strangulation of the intestine, are so small that surgery is not required, though in rare emergencies it is necessary. If an operation is needed to repair a hernia in an older child it takes twenty to thirty minutes and the child can return home the same day. It is very uncommon for complications to occur.
Adults may develop an umbilical hernia in later life as a direct result of increased internal abdominal pressure through obesity, heavy lifting, prolonged periods of coughing or multiple pregnancies. Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM, FRS (1871 – 1937) known as the 'father of nuclear physics' unexpectedly died following an operation for an acquired umbilical hernia. British protocol at the time required that he should be operated on by a titled doctor because he was a peer and it is thought that the delay in operating cost him his life.
Since all mammals have an umbilical cord they all have a chance of developing umbilical hernias. It is often seen by breeders and veterinary surgeons in puppies and kittens but has also been observed in calves, foals, brown bear (Ursus arctos) cubs and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) one of which had surgery to repair the hernia.
You can read about Gus's umbilical hernia here.
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