Skip to main contentSkip to main content

How it's performed

Umbilical hernia repair is a fairly quick and simple operation. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes and it's usually possible to go home on the same day.

However, some people stay in hospital overnight if they have other medical problems or if they live alone.

The hospital will send you instructions about when to stop eating and drinking before the operation.

At the hospital, you'll meet the nurse, anaesthetist (specialist who puts you or your child to sleep), and surgeon. This is a good opportunity to ask questions if there's anything you're not sure about.

In most cases, the operation is carried out under general anaesthetic. This means you're unconscious during the procedure and won't feel any pain as it's carried out.

If general anaesthetic is used, it's usually inhaled as a gas or injected into the back of the hand. You can stay with your child until they're taken into the operating theatre.

Local anaesthetic, where the area being operated on is numbed but you remain awake, is occasionally used instead of general anaesthetic. It's usually only used in adults with a small hernia who aren't in good enough health to have a general anaesthetic.

During umbilical hernia repair, the surgeon makes a small cut of about 2 to 3cm at the base of the belly button and pushes the fatty lump or loop of bowel back into the tummy.

The muscle layers at the weak spot in the abdominal wall where the hernia came through are stitched together to strengthen them. For large or adult umbilical hernias, a special mesh patch may be placed in the abdominal wall to strengthen the area instead.

The wound on the surface of the skin is closed with dissolvable stitches or special surgical glue. Sometimes, a pressure dressing is applied, which usually stays on for 4 to 5 days.

Although the operation only takes up to 30 minutes, you or your child will be away from the ward for around 2 hours.

If your child has had surgery, you'll be taken to the recovery room as soon as they wake up so you can be with them on their way back to the ward.

Read more about recovering from an umbilical hernia repair.

If your GP refers you to a consultant for specialist treatment, such as surgery, you have the right to start treatment within 18 weeks.

You may be able to book your hospital appointment through the NHS e-Referral Service while you're still in the GP surgery.

Read more about NHS waiting times for treatment.