What is a strangulated hernia?

Table of Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Diagnosis and treatment
  3. Surgery
  4. Hernia types
  5. Incarcerated hernias
  6. When to see a doctor
  7. Causes
  8. Complications
  9. Recovery
  10. Outlook




Hernia types

When to see a doctor





A strangulated hernia occurs when the blood supply to the herniated tissue has been cut off. This strangulated tissue can release toxins and infection into the bloodstream, which could lead to sepsis or death. Strangulated hernias are medical emergencies.

Any hernia can become strangulated. A strangulated hernia is a hernia that is cutting off the blood supply to the intestines and tissues in the abdomen.

Symptoms of a strangulated hernia include pain near a hernia that gets worse very quickly and may be associated with other symptoms.

Anyone who suspects they have a strangulated hernia should seek emergency medical care.

Fast facts on strangulated hernia:

Strangulated hernias tend to cause severe symptoms.

A hernia looks like a noticeable bulge on the skin.

Anyone who suspects they have a hernia should see a doctor.


lady holding her stomach in pain. Possible strangulated herniaAlongside a bulge, symptoms of a strangulated hernia may include fever, fatigue, nausea, and excruciating pain.

One common indication of a strangulated hernia is an easily visible bulge in the areas of the abdomen or pelvis.

Other symptoms that may accompany the bulge include:

sudden pain that can quickly become excruciating


general fatigue

inflammation and color changes in the skin near the hernia

burning feeling around the hernia



inability to pass gas

severe constipation or an inability to have a bowel movement

bloody stools

rapid heart rate

Anyone who experiences pain near the hernia should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Diagnosis and treatment

Strangulated hernias are often diagnosed in the emergency room, and may be easy to see from visual inspection and the description of symptoms. Doctors may use an imaging test, such as an ultrasound, to check if the hernia is blocking a person’s bowels.

A strangulated hernia should be surgically treated immediately, as this may prevent serious harm to the body and permanent damage to the tissues.


doctors rushing a patient in a bed through a hospital. Possible strangulated hernia Strangulated hernias are medical emergencies.

Surgery for a strangulated hernia occurs in two stages.

First, the surgeon will need to reduce the size of the hernia. The surgeon gently applies pressure to the hernia in an attempt to push the trapped tissues back into the abdominal cavity. They must work quickly to prevent the tissue from being permanently damaged.

After this, the surgeon will remove any damaged tissues.

Once this is complete, the surgeon will repair the weak area of muscle where the hernia pushed through. If the hernia is small, the surgeon may be able to do this with stitches. With large hernias, a surgeon may need to add flexible surgical mesh or tissue for added support to help keep the hernia from recurring.

Hernia types

A hernia is the result of a weakness in the abdominal muscles that hold the organs in place. When these muscles become too weak, organ tissue might push through the muscle, creating this noticeable bulge in the skin. This bulge may disappear or become smaller when a person lies down.

Hernias may also be tender to the touch and can cause discomfort in the upper or lower abdomen or groin, especially when lifting, coughing, or bending over.

Hernias may not cause symptoms in some cases, but it may still be better to treat them early to avoid complications.

A strangulated hernia is not a type of hernia, but rather a complication. Some of the more common types of hernias that can become strangulated are:

Inguinal hernia: A bulge on either side of the pubic bone.

Epigastric hernia: A bulge of fat pushing through the walls of the upper abdomen.

Femoral hernia: A lump in the groin or inner upper area of the thigh.

Umbilical hernias: A bump in the belly button caused by the intestines protruding through weaker abdominal muscles at the belly button.

Incisional hernia: A hernia caused by a surgical wound that has not entirely or correctly healed.

Hiatal hernia: A hernia that develops when a portion of the stomach elevates through a defect in the diaphragm. While this type of hernia can become strangulated, the signs are different and include nausea, pain in the chest after eating, and bloating.

Types and treatments for herniaTypes and treatments for hernia
Learn more about hernias, included all their related causes here.
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Incarcerated hernias

Hernias may become incarcerated when the herniated tissue gets trapped and cannot move back into place, but the blood supply to the tissues has not been cut off. However, incarcerated hernias can easily lead to strangulated hernias.

Incarcerated hernias are not a medical emergency, but should still be treated quickly to prevent them becoming strangulated.

When to see a doctor

If the hernia does not easily go back into the abdominal cavity, it may be incarcerated. Anyone with an incarcerated hernia should see a doctor, as these hernias can easily become strangulated.

Anyone who suspects they have a strangulated hernia should skip the doctor and seek emergency medical care immediately.

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