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A to Z: Hernia, Bilateral

May also be called: Bilateral Hernia, Bilateral Inguinal Hernia, Bilateral Groin Hernia

A bilateral hernia is a condition in which someone has hernias in both the right and left sides of the groin.

More to Know

A hernia is an opening or weakness in the wall of a muscle, tissue, or membrane that normally holds an organ in place. If the opening or weakness is large enough, a portion of the organ may be able to poke through the hole. With inguinal hernias — the type of hernia found in bilateral hernias — the openings are located in the groin area, at parts of the abdominal wall called the inguinal canals.

In boys, the inguinal canals are passageways between the abdomen and the scrotum through which cords called the spermatic cords pass. In girls the inguinal canals are passageways for ligaments that hold the uterus in place. With a bilateral hernia, instead of closing tightly, the canals leave spaces for the intestines to slide into. This can cause swelling and pain, especially while coughing, bending over, or lifting heavy objects.

Bilateral hernias — and all inguinal hernias — require surgery to repair. If left untreated they can cause severe pain and damage to the intestine. In rare cases, if blood flow to the intestine gets cut off, bilateral hernias can become life threatening and require immediate medical attention.

Keep in Mind

Bilateral hernia surgery usually doesn’t require an overnight stay in the hospital, and complications are rare. Bilateral hernias need to be treated, though, so a doctor should be notified about any pain or swelling in the groin that lasts for more than a few days.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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