Health Illustrated Encyclopedia

Lump in the abdomen

Definition

A lump in the abdomen is a soft bulge of tissue or a small, local area of swelling in the belly area.

See also: Abdominal mass

Alternative Names

Abdominal hernia; Hernia - abdominal; Abdominal wall defects

Causes

Most often, a lump in the abdomen is caused by a hernia. An abdominal hernia occurs when there is an area where the muscles are weak, and this allows the internal organs to bulge through the abdominal wall.

A hernia can form where the surgical cut was made. An incisional hernia may not appear until after straining, heavy lifting, or a prolonged period of coughing.

Related topics:

Home Care

Seek appropriate care for chronic cough or for constipation if you have a hernia. Straining associated with these conditions causes the intestines to protrude further into the hernia.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor if you have a lump in your abdomen that becomes larger, discolored, or painful.

If you have a hernia, call your doctor if you have:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal appearance of the hernia
  • Pain or tenderness around the hernia

A strangulated hernia, one in which the blood supply is lost to the organs that protrude through the hernia, is very rare, but it is a medical emergency.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The doctor will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:

  • Where is the lump located?
  • When did you first notice the lump in your abdomen?
  • Is it always there or does it come and go?
  • How large is the abdominal lump? Try to measure the diameter (distance across) or compare it to another object (the size of a baseball, for example)
  • Does anything make the lump bigger or smaller?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

During the physical examination, you may be asked to cough or strain.

Surgery may be needed to correct incisional hernias or umbilical hernias that do not go away by the time the child approaches school age. Emergency surgery is needed in the case of a strangulated hernia.

References

Seidel HM, Ball JW, Daines JE, Benedict GW. Mosby’s Guide to Physical Examination. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2006.

Chirdan LB, Uba AF, Kidmas AT. Incarcerated umbilical hernia in children. Eur J Pediatr Surg. 2006; 16(1):45-48.


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Review Date: 7/17/2007
Reviewed By: Robert Hurd, MD, Professor of Endocrinology, Department of Biology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, and physician in the Primary Care Clinic, Cincinnati Veterans Administration Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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