Recovering from umbilical hernia repair 

It's usually possible to go home the same day as having an umbilical hernia repair.

It's normal to feel sore and uncomfortable immediately after surgery. Local anaesthetic, which numbs the area, will be injected before the end of the operation to reduce the pain. Painkillers will also be provided.

Your child may be sleepy or cry a lot and demand extra attention after the operation. This is normal and will pass.

Most adults and children can go home a few hours after surgery, after they've had something to eat and drink.

An overnight stay in hospital for monitoring is usually only recommended for people with other medical problems, or people who are vomiting regularly and can't keep down any food or drink.

At home

There may be bruising and tenderness around the wound during your recovery at home. This is normal and usually settles within about a week. However, the swelling may not go down for several weeks.

The hospital will advise you about taking painkillers to relieve any discomfort. You can give your child painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Children under 16 must not be given aspirin.

Loose clothing may also help reduce any discomfort your child has, but they should be able to wear trousers or a skirt as normal.

Make sure you follow the instructions about hygiene, caring for the wound and bathing your nurse gave you before you left hospital.

Straining on the toilet because of constipation can cause pain around the wound. Drinking lots of fluids and eating plenty of vegetables, fruit and high-fibre foods such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta can help reduce the chances of this occurring.

Activities

Your surgical team will be able to give you a good idea of how long it takes to recover from surgery.

If the operation was carried out under a general anaesthetic, your co-ordination and reasoning may be affected for a short time. Adults should therefore avoid drinking alcohol, operating machinery or signing legal documents for at least 48 hours after the procedure.

Normal activities can gradually be resumed over time until they can be carried out without feeling any pain. Most people are able to do light activities after one or two weeks.

Gentle exercise, such as walking, can help the healing process. Heavy lifting and strenuous activities should be avoided for about four to six weeks.

Work and school

You should keep your child off school for about a week to give them time to recover from the anaesthetic and the operation. They should be excused from sports and games for at least two weeks after they return to school.

Adults who have surgery should be able to return to work after a week or two, although you may need more time off if your job involves manual labour.

Driving

It's usually advisable to avoid driving until you're able to perform an emergency stop without feeling any pain or discomfort – you can practise this without starting your car.

It will usually be at least one or two weeks after surgery before you reach this point.

It's normally recommended you contact your car insurance company before starting driving again.

When to call a doctor

Call your surgeon or GP if any of the following symptoms develop after surgery for an umbilical hernia:

  • persistent fever over 38C (100.4F)
  • bleeding
  • increased swelling or pain in the abdomen
  • pain that isn't relieved by painkillers
  • persistent nausea or vomiting
  • chills
  • persistent coughing or shortness of breath
  • increasing redness surrounding your incisions
  • difficulty passing urine

Page last reviewed: 29/09/2015

Next review due: 31/03/2018