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A to Z: Hernia, Epigastric

May also be called: Ventral Hernia; Linea Alba Hernia

An epigastric (eh-pih-GAS-trik) hernia is a hernia that happens when part of the intestines protrude through the abdominal muscles located between the belly button and the chest.

More to Know

A hernia is an opening or weakness in the wall of a muscle, tissue, or membrane that normally holds an organ in place. If the opening or weakness is large enough, a portion of the organ may be able to protrude through the hole.

With an epigastric hernia, the opening is found near the center of the abdomen, in between the bottom of the breastbone (sternum) and the belly button. This part of the abdomen is called the epigastrium, so a hernia in this area is called epigastric.

Epigastric hernias are caused by defects in the midline of the abdomen (called the linea alba), where the abdominal muscles on both sides come together. Babies can be born with this sort of defect, or it can be caused by weakness in the surrounding muscles or strain on the abdominal wall. The defect may allow fatty tissue and/or part of the intestines to protrude through the abdominal muscles. This can cause pain and a small lump.

About 75% of epigastric hernias occur in males. They are usually small and may cause no symptoms and sometimes require no treatment. When symptoms are present or the hernia is large, surgery is a common way to fix the problem.

Keep in Mind

Epigastric hernias should be evaluated so a doctor should be notified about swelling or pain in the area of the epigastrium.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.