Bochdalek Hernia: Symptoms & Repair

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Bochdalek hernia is a rare congenital condition. Read this lesson to learn more about this specific type of hernia, common characteristics of the condition, and how to treat it.

What is a Hernia?

Joan, a middle school teacher, has recently started suffering from abdominal pain. Eager to find some relief from the ongoing and increasing discomfort, she makes an appointment with her doctor. Because Joan's symptoms are relatively vague, she is sent for a CT scan to get a diagnostic image of her chest and abdomen.

After viewing the image, the doctor suspects a hernia, or weakened area of muscle, in her diaphragm. The doctor explains that the diaphragm is a muscle separating the abdominal space from her organs in the chest. Joan learns that her diaphragmatic hernia is likely the cause of her discomfort.

Bochdalek Hernias

To manage her symptoms and determine her treatment plan, Joan sees another doctor who specializes in hernia repair. During her appointment, she finds out that while hernias are pretty common, her specific type of hernia is relatively rare. She is diagnosed with a Bochdalek hernia on the left side, a congenital defect occurring within the womb during fetal development. This means that while she was developing chest and abdominal organs within her mother's womb, the diaphragm muscle did not close properly.

The Bochdalek hernia is a result of the diaphragm muscle not completely closing shortly after birth, leaving a weak spot or hole in the muscle. This particular hernia occurs towards the back or posterior aspect of the diaphragm. The condition can be life-threatening in infancy; less serious Bochdalek hernias may be diagnosed in childhood. Very few Bochdalek hernias first cause symptoms in adulthood. Some remain asymptomatic for the patient's whole life. Most Bochdalek hernias -- about 85% -- occur on the left side, but some occur on the right.

Symptoms of the Bochdalek hernia include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Indigestion
  • Intestinal blockages

Due to Joan's discomfort, the specialist discusses potential treatment options for her Bochdalek hernia.

Treating the Bochdalek Hernia

Joan's pain and discomfort are signs that her hernia should be repaired. In some cases, this condition can lead to serious complications if abdominal organs like the stomach and intestines push through the hernia. Surgery may be considered to avoid complications like shortness of breath, pain, and bowel obstruction.

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