Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Groin Hernia—Adult

(Hernia, Groin—Adult; Hernia, Inguinal—Adult; Inguinal Hernia—Adult; Hernia, Femoral—Adult; Hernia, Femoral—Adult; Femoral Hernia—Adult)

Definition  ^

A groin hernia is abdominal tissue or fat pushing through the abdominal wall. There are 2 main types:

  • Inguinal hernia (most common)—appears as a bulge in the groin (or scrotal area in men)
  • Femoral hernia—appears as a bulge in the groin, upper thigh, or labia (in women)

A hernia can trap a section of intestine, leading to blockage or problems with blood flow. This is called strangulation. It is a medical emergency and requires care right away.

Inguinal Hernias in Men
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Causes  ^

The abdominal wall wraps around the middle section from the bottom of the ribs to the pelvis. It helps to contain and support abdominal organs and tissue. When this area is weakened, these internal tissues can press through can create the hernia. The weakness may be caused by a problem with abdominal wall development before birth, or result from injuries or wear and tear of the muscles.

Risk Factors  ^

Inguinal hernias are more common in men and femoral hernias are more common in women.

Abdominal wall weakness is more common in older adults. Other factors that may increase the chances of abdominal wall weakness:

  • Obesity
  • Wear and tear on abdominal wall from frequent lifting of heavy objects, or prolonged coughing or straining
  • Previous surgery in the abdominal area
  • Family history of hernia
  • Peritoneal dialysis

Symptoms  ^

Many times, there are no symptoms with a groin hernia. In those who do have them, the symptoms may include:

  • A bulge in the groin area when standing or straining
  • A bulge in the upper thigh area
  • Pain in the groin area when straining
  • A bulge that may extend into the scrotum in men or the labia in women
  • Pain and/or a heavy feeling or discomfort in the groin area

More serious symptoms may need emergency care:

  • Severe pain in the groin or abdomen
  • Fever
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis  ^

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis can usually be made during the exam. If the diagnosis is not clear, imaging tests may be needed.

Treatment  ^

Watchful waiting is an option for those with inguinal hernias who do not have symptoms. This means you and your doctor will monitor the hernia for growth or the appearance of more serious symptoms. Femoral hernias are at higher risk of strangulation. Watchful waiting is not advised, especially for women.

Femoral hernias and inguinal hernias that cause symptoms are repaired with surgery. The abdominal tissue will be pushed back in and the opening will be closed. Sometimes, a mesh material will be placed to help support the area.

Prevention  ^

To help reduce the chances of a groin hernia:

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://familydoctor.org

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
https://www.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Institute for Health Information
https://www.cihi.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Garvey JF, Read JW, Turner A. Sportsman hernia: what can we do? Hernia. 2010;14(1):17-25.

Groin hernia in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113880/Groin-hernia-in-adults-and-adolescents. Updated March 14, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.

Groin hernia: inguinal and femoral repair. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/groin%20hernia.ashx. Updated April 2016. Accessed March 23, 2018.

Hawn MT, Itani KM, Giobbie-Hurder A, McCarthy M Jr, Jonasson O, Neumayer LA. Patient-reported outcomes after inguinal herniorrhaphy. Surgery. 2006;140(2):198-205.

Inguinal hernia. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/inguinal-hernia. Updated June 2014. Accessed March 23, 2018.

Laurence I, Ngan-Soo E, Gandhi S. The role of multi-detector computed tomography in imaging hernias. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2011;72(2):72-77.

3/16/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113880/Groin-hernia-in-adults-and-adolescents: Fitzgibbons RJ Jr, Forse RA. Clinical practice. Groin hernias in adults. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(8):756-763.

Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 3/16/2015