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Pediatr Surg Int. 1998 Dec;14(3):231-2.

Incarceration of umbilical hernias in children: a rare but important complication.

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Department of Paediatric Surgery, King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, U.K.


Umbilical hernia (UH) is a common condition in infants and young children, especially in those of Afro-Caribbean origin. Spontaneous closure occurs in a majority of cases before the age of 4 years unless the neck of the sac is greater than 2 cm in diameter. Complications are rare, and conservative management is therefore advised during this time. We present three cases of incarcerated UH in boys under 4 years old, all of whom presented with small-bowel obstruction. Interestingly, in two of them undigested vegetable matter in the small bowel appeared to have precipitated the obstruction. A survey of the literature suggests that the incidence of this complication is approximately 1:1,500 UHs. We conclude that the present policy of expectant management is safe for the vast majority of children, but parents and general practitioners should be aware of the small risk and early symptoms of incarceration.

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