Patient leaflet: Umbilical and epigastric hernia

EHS has developed a patient leaflet about umbilical and epigastric hernia. You can access the leaflet here in many different languages.

The EHS writes clinical guidelines for all healthcare professionals involved in hernia surgery, which are also a source of valuable information for patients.

This booklet is developed specifically for you who suffer from an umbilical or epigastric hernia, or for you who have a friend / family member an umbilical or epigastric hernia, if you are involved in their decision making or care.

It is important to stress that your treatment should always be a joint decision between you and your surgeon.

This booklet summarises the most current recommendations on the management of an umbilical or epigastric hernia produced by the European Hernia Society. It is based on evidence sourced from the medical scientific literature.

Many questions about the management of umbilical or  epigastric hernias remain unanswered as there is not enough information to make a true evidence-based recommendation. However, expert opinion is also able to help you make the right choice for you or a loved one.

What is an umbilical and epigastric hernia?

An abdominal wall hernia is defined as a protrusion of the contents of the abdomen through a defect in its wall. In other words, part of your insides sticks out through a hole in your tummy muscles.

Primary ventral hernias are commonest in the midline of the abdomen. These are called umbilical or epigastric hernias depending on their location. An umbilical hernia is a hernia in the umbilicus (tummy button). An epigastric hernia is any other hernia in the middle of your tummy. There are a group of much rarer lateral hernias, called Spigelian and lumbar hernias. These occur on the side of the abdomen. They are not discussed in this booklet. 

If you have a hernia in your groin (an inguinal or femoral hernia) or a hernia under a scar from previous surgery (an incisional hernia), this is not the correct information booklet for you. 

Umbilical hernias are very common and it is estimated that 25% of the population has or has had one repaired. 

Most have a hole (defect) in the abdominal wall that is small (between 1-2cm) and the hernia contains fat only. However, the hernia sac can also contain intestines and other organs from your abdominal cavity. 

Find the patient leaflet in multiple languages in the download menu on this page and get an answer to these questions: 

  • How do I know if I suffer from an umbilical or epigastric hernia?
  • Do I need any tests to confirm my diagnosis?
  • Is having an umbilical or epigastric hernia dangerous?
  • Is an operation the only way to fix my hernia?
  • What should I do before my operation?
  • Patients with special considerations?
  • What to expect during surgery?
  • Is a mesh always necessary to repair my hernia and is it safe?
  • Is there anything I shouldn’t do after my operation?
  • Where do I find more information?






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