Epigastric Hernia in Adults: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

What is an epigastric hernia? What symptoms are associated with it? In this lesson, we will learn about epigastric hernias in adults. We will learn about the symptoms and how to treat them.

What is this Lump on my Belly?

Mary is a 25-year-old female who recently had her first baby. She has always been slightly overweight and has never been very active or fit. Recently she noticed a lump on the upper part of her belly. She panicked when she first saw it, but then it seemed to have gone away. So she didn't think much of it.

However, Mary started noticing that when she would cough it became visible again. Or, when she would strain to have a bowel movement, it would protrude. She finally decided to see her primary physician.

What is an Epigastric Hernia?

Mary's doctor examined her and told her that she had a hernia. A hernia, which can be located in many different areas of the body, is when part of an organ pushes through a muscle wall that contains that organ.

Mary's hernia was located between her sternum, or breastbone, and her umbilicus, or belly button. This type of hernia is called an epigastric hernia and occurs when fat pushes through a weak area of the abdominal wall at this site.

Symptoms and Complications

Mary's physician asks her if she was having any symptoms associated with this. Mary told him she didn't have anything that she was aware of; she just started noticing the lump.

The doctor explains that typically there are no symptoms associated with this type of hernia. Some people will have some pain if the fat is being pinched by the abdominal muscles. Even though there may be no other symptoms, an epigastric hernia can lead to further problems.

The hernia may start small, like Mary's is. But as it becomes larger, it may cause more pain as it becomes trapped in the muscle. If the skin becomes discolored, this may indicate that it is a strangulated hernia, which means that the blood supply has been cut off. If this occurs, Mary may also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a fever. If any of these things occur, she needs to seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment for an Epigastric Hernia

Mary asks her physician if anything needs to be done for her hernia since it is small and painless at this time. He recommends that she get it repaired to prevent the likelihood of further complications.

Surgery to repair her epigastric hernia involves pushing the fat and any organs back into place and closing up the hole on the abdominal muscle. It is an outpatient surgery and most people fully recover within 2-4 weeks.

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