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A to Z: Hernia, Inguinal

May also be called: Groin Hernia

An inguinal (IN-gwuh-nul) hernia is a hernia that happens when part of the intestines protrudes through an opening in the lower part of the abdomen, near the groin, called the inguinal canal.

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 protrude through the hole.

With an inguinal hernia, the opening is found in the groin area, at a part of the abdominal wall called the inguinal canal.

In boys, the inguinal canal is a passageway between the abdomen and the scrotum through which a cord called the spermatic cord passes. In girls, the inguinal canal is the passageway for a ligament that holds the uterus in place. With an inguinal hernia, instead of closing tightly, the canal leaves a space for the intestines to slide into. This can cause swelling and pain, especially while coughing, bending over, or lifting heavy objects.

Inguinal hernias require surgery to repair and are one of the most common type of surgery performed on kids and teens. If left untreated, they can cause severe pain and damage to the intestine. In less common cases, if blood flow to the intestine gets cut off, inguinal hernias can become life threatening and require immediate medical attention.

Keep in Mind

Inguinal hernias need to be evaluated and treated so a doctor should be notified about any pain or swelling in the groin.

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

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