Hernia/Hydrocele

What is a hernia and a hydrocele?

A hernia is a protrusion of tissue or a part of an organ through a weak muscle or membrane. When this happens, a piece of tissue or part of an organ can protrude into a part of the body where it doesn't belong. There are different types of hernias:

  • Umbilical hernias, which occur at the umbilicus (belly button)
  • Inguinal hernias, which are visible in the groin area
  • Diaphragmatic hernias, also called congenital diaphragmatic hernias. Diaphragmatic hernias are the most serious type of hernias because they affect the diaphragm, which makes it difficult for babies to breathe.

A hydrocele is an accumulation of fluid in a body cavity—usually in a baby's scrotum. Download a fact sheet about hernias and hydroceles. (PDF)

What causes them?

Hernias are more common in babies born prematurely, because they are more likely to have weaker tissues that allow protrusions. Hernias are more commonly seen in boys, but can happen to both boys and girls.

Hydrocele are very common in baby boys. In fact, 1 in 10 baby boys is born with an enlarged scrotum due to hydrocele. Rarely, hydrocele are caused by an infection but most of the time they are normal and harmless.

How are they treated?

In some cases, such as umbilical hernias and many hydroceles, the problem will heal on its own as your child grows. In other cases, surgery is necessary. If surgery is not performed, a hernia could become painful for your child and could become an emergency.

Serious hernias may involve a multidisciplinary team of professionals. At Children's, hernia surgery may involve general surgeons and/or pediatric urology surgeons. Congenital diaphragmatic hernias may involve general surgeons, neonatal physicians, and others. Children's has a national reputation for providing the most advanced care available for babies with congenital diaphragmatic hernias.

About surgery for a hernia and a hydrocele at Children's

The pediatric urology surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. The team consistently performs some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Urologic surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul and Children's West.

  • If you are a family member looking for a Children's specialist in urology surgery, please call the Center for Pediatric Urology at 1-800-992-6983.
  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

Return to Children's pediatric urology surgery home page.