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Femoral Hernia: Causes & Symptoms

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.

Femoral hernias occur close to the hip at the inguinal fold. Learn about the common causes and symptoms of the femoral hernia, and when to seek emergency medical care.

A Strange Bulge

Diane, a retired biology teacher, is a 70-year-old woman who loves trips to the library and reading about the latest scientific advancements. Other than her chronic constipation, or, difficulty moving her bowels, she is normal, healthy, and enjoying her retirement.

It is mid-morning and Diane has plans to get to the library before noon. She goes to the bathroom to shower and wash-up. As she is showering, she notices a small bulge where the top of her right leg meets the pelvis. She presses on the small bulge and finds that it is soft and reducible, meaning that she can push it back into place. From her education and experience in biology, Diane is familiar with the human body, and suspects that she may have a femoral hernia. She makes an appointment with her family physician to have it evaluated.

What is a Femoral Hernia?

Diane sees her physician, who confirms her suspicion of a femoral hernia. A hernia occurs when a weak spot develops in the femoral sheath, allowing intestinal tissue to protrude through the femoral canal, resulting in a bulge. The femoral canal, a small passageway that regulates the blood flow through the femoral vein, is not very flexible, and any weaknesses of its boundaries may allow intestinal tissue to push through.

Causes of a Femoral Hernia

While femoral hernias are uncommon, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with this specific injury. The doctor explores some of the causes of femoral hernias:

  • Vaginal childbirth
  • Chronic constipation
  • Excessive coughing
  • Obesity
  • Lifting heavy objects

Diane's physician is aware of her past medical history, and believes that straining due to constipation has caused her femoral hernia.

Symptoms of a Femoral Hernia

Small femoral hernias may not be visible, causing many to go unnoticed and untreated. Large femoral hernias are quite obvious, and tend to appear close to the hip. Upon assessment, Diane's femoral hernia is considerate to be moderate in size, and is causing some symptoms.

  • Appearance: The hernia is a protrusion located close to the hip, and is visible to the eye due to it's size.
  • Discomfort: Because of its location, the hernia is putting pressure on the hip, and starting to cause some mild pain. Large hernias may interfere with a person's ability to walk altogether.
  • Severe symptoms: While Diane's symptoms are relatively mild, some femoral hernias can cause severe pain in the hip, groin, or in the stomach, which may further cause nausea and vomiting, and require immediate medical attention.

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