Epigastric hernias can be present from birth.
What is an epigastric hernia?
An epigastric hernia is a lump in the midline between the umbilicus (belly button) and sternum (breastbone) which can cause pain.
How does a hernia happen?
The abdominal cavity contains the intestines and other structures. These are protected by the abdominal wall, which is made up of four layers. The inner layer is a membrane. The second layer is a wall made of muscle. A layer of fat separates the muscle from the outer layer of skin.
In an epigastric hernia, fat pushes out through a weakness in the wall of the abdomen between the umbilicus and sternum and forms a lump. The most common symptom is pain caused by the fat being pinched by the abdominal wall.
What are the benefits of surgery?
You should no longer have the hernia. Surgery can help to relieve pain if it is caused by the hernia, allowing you to return to normal activities. You may still have pain if it is caused by another problem. Your surgeon can discuss this with you.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Surgery is recommended as it is the only dependable way to cure the condition.
The hernia can be left alone but pain caused by the hernia will usually continue and complications can happen. The hernia will not go away without an operation.
What will happen if I decide not to have the operation?
An epigastric hernia is usually safe to leave alone. However, the hernia can get bigger with time, especially if you are overweight or have a persistent cough.
An epigastric hernia can be dangerous because the intestines or other structures within the abdomen can sometimes get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia). This is serious and needs an urgent and bigger operation, with a higher risk of serious complications.