Symptoms and causes

What is it?

An inguinal hernia or hernia inguinalis is a protrusion of the peritoneum through the inguinal canal. At that site, the spermatic cord (in men) or the round ligament of the uterus (in women) runs through the abdominal muscles. Inguinal herniae are much more frequent in men than in women. Patients discover a palpable or visible swelling in their groin. At an early stage, this is often painless.

Diagnosis and treatment

Should every inguinal hernia be treated?

Many inguinal herniae cause little or no symptoms during the initial stage. Often, we wait and see if and how the inguinal hernia develops. A watchful-waiting approach is not dangerous.

Occasionally, an urgent repair of an inguinal hernia is required: when suddenly there is a painful swelling that can no longer be pushed back. After all, this so-called ‘strangulated inguinal hernia' may contain intestinal structures that can die off due to the strangulation. These patients must immediately go to the A&E and, if the inguinal hernia cannot be pushed back there either, immediate surgery will be required. A ‘strangulated inguinal hernia’ is rather rare.


Find out more about the different types of inguinal hernia repair here.
Children can also develop an inguinal hernia. Because the mechanism of inguinal hernia is very different in children than in adults, we usually do not refer to an inguinal hernia in children, but rather of a communicating hydrocoele (hydrocoele communicans).

Treatment centres and specialisations

Hernia Centre
General Surgery
Urology Centre

Latest publication date: 25/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Pletinckx Pieter, Dr Ameye Filip