Hernia and Hydrocele

How to differentiate between Inguinal hernia and hydrocele?

Inguinal hernia is usually a reducible swelling with cry/cough impulse while a hydrocele is a tense cystic, clinically irreducible swelling without any impulse. Transillumination test is not reliable as can be present in both the cases.

Why hydrocele is irreducible swelling?

The pathogenesis of both hernia and hydrocele is same that is persistence of processus vaginalis.

The neck of hydrocele is very narrow and so even if you try to compress the swelling, the fluid from processus vaginalis will not go into the abdominal cavity. The parents will give a characteristic history of swelling being less during morning and then gradually starts increasing in size. While the opening of hernia sac is large enough to allow the free reduction of contents.

For how long one can safely wait in hydrocele?

The hydrocele which are constant in size through out the day time are usually scrotal type hydrocele and are seen in newborns. They are called as non- communicating hydroceles. It is this type of non -communicating hydrocele which tends to resolve spontaneously.

The hydrocele in which parents gives the history of increase and decrease in the size of swelling are called as communicating hydrocele and will require surgery.

The condition can be safely observed till 18mths to 2 years of age as it is harmless. But one should be sure that they are not associated with hernia.

When one should advice for hernia surgery?

Inguinal hernias never go away without surgery. This is a condition in which surgery is advised to be done as early as possible as the risk of hernia getting incarcerated is as high as 30 to 40%. If not tackled in time it can lead to major complications of gut and testis necrosis. Also emergency anesthesia may further increase the risk for the child.

How safe is inguinal hernia surgery in newborns and infants?

Like any other surgery anesthesia have its own risks. As the risk of hernia incarceration is very high especially in newborns, waiting for hernia repair is not a good option once a diagnosis of hernia is made.

The commonest problem of hernia surgery in newborns is postoperative apnea. To minimise this it is usual practice to perform surgery once the child is more than 49 wks of gestational age or weighing more than 2.2 kg. After surgery these patients needs to be monitored in hospital for 24 hrs for risk of postoperative apnea.

What is the surgical procedure done for hernia and hydrocoel?

The surgery in both the conditions is same that is the ligation of patent processus vaginalis called as “HERNIOTOMY”.

Are there any indications for performing bilateral repair in case of a unilateral inguinal hernia?

The risk of hernia manifesting on the contralateral side after unilateral repair is just 10 %. Although the patent processus vaginalis may be present in higher number of cases but it may not manifest as hernia later on. So as per present recommendations bilateral hernia repair is not routinely done in cases of a unilateral inguinal hernia.

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