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A reducible hernia is a lump or protrusion of the intestine though the wall that contains it that can be pushed back into place. This type of hernia differs from a non-reducible hernia, which cannot be gently manipulated back into a sac in the groin or stomach. Even though this type of hernia responds to manual pressure, it requires surgery to close the opening in the hernial sac.
It is possible for reducible hernias to occur in three main parts of the body. An inguinal hernia is the most common type and shows up in the groin when part of the intestine bulges through a weakened muscle. When the intestine pushes through an area where the thigh meets the body, it is a femoral hernia. A hernia common in newborns is called an umbilical hernia, where part of the gut protrudes from the belly button.
A reducible hernia can only be repaired through surgery. The weakened area is strengthened with nylon mesh, but the hernia can return in rare cases. Some hernias can be corrected through laparoscopic surgery, in which the procedure is performed through very small incisions, without the need for a large incision in the abdomen.
Many hernias are caused by lifting heavy objects. Excess body weight can also cause weaknesses in the intestinal wall that can lead to a lump. Some femoral hernias stem from chronic constipation or repeated coughing episodes. When these hernias occur in children, it usually means the abdominal wall did not fully close before birth. Often, an umbilical hernia will disappear by the time the child is five years old.
Most hernias can be felt as a bump or node. There may be pain where the intestine has pushed out through the wall. A doctor will ask a patient to cough during a physical exam to check for areas where the intestine bulges. In children, a lump may not be visible unless the child is crying or exerting effort that makes it bulge.
Even though a reducible hernia can be manipulated back into the abdominal cavity, it could worsen and become strangulated. This condition is serious and requires immediate surgery. If not treated promptly, a strangulated hernia can lead to gangrene because the blood supply is cut off. Strangulated hernias occur most often in the femoral area. It is best to surgically repair the hernia before complications surface.
Other causes for detention of the abdominal wall include blood collecting under the skin after an injury, swollen lymph nodes, a tumor, or undescended testicles. A doctor should be consulted whenever a lump is accompanied by pain, fever, or vomiting. If the appearance of a reducible hernia changes or it becomes enlarged, a doctor should evaluate the situation.