Femoral hernia

What is a Femoral hernia?

A femoral hernia is a less common type of hernia which occurs mostly in women, though it can occur in men too. Unlike inguinal hernia which appears above the crease of your groin, this type of hernia is a painful lump which appears below the crease of your groin. Femoral hernias happen when a weakness in your lower groin allows an intestinal sac to drop into the space near the femoral vein which transports blood from your leg. This space is known as your femoral canal. More so than inguinal hernia, surgery is necessary to treat most cases of femoral hernia due to the high risk of complications such as obstruction and strangulation.

What causes a femoral hernia?

Femoral hernia is typically caused by a weak spot in your groin region and by excess pressure or strain placed on this weak spot. Women are far more susceptible to this condition than men. This is due to the wider shape of a woman’s pelvis and femoral canal.

Some factors which may increase pressure on this weakened area include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Heavy exercise
  • Straining during chronic constipation
  • Having frequent and persistent cough
  • Being overweight or obese

How do I know if I have a femoral hernia?

You may notice a bulge in your upper thigh just below the groin. Most cases of femoral hernias, however,do not cause symptoms. There may be groin pain or discomfort that worsens when you strain, carry heavy objects or strain.

In some cases, the first symptoms may be sudden pain in your groin and/or abdomen, nausea and/or vomiting. This may indicate that your intestine within the hernia is obstructed. In other cases, the hernia may not be pushed back into your abdomen when you apply gently pressure. Also, you may see your hernia becoming dark or discoloured. Do seek medical attention immediately as these are emergency cases.

How is a femoral hernia diagnosed?

A physical examination of your groin area will be carried out by the doctor to diagnose a femoral hernia. If your diagnosis is not immediately apparent, you might be asked to undergo a diagnostic imaging test such as abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI by the doctor.

What are the possible complications of a femoral hernia?

Possible complications include obstruction, whereby the tissues around your hernia or intestines become blocked by the hernia. This tissue may die if not immediately treated via surgery. One further complication is if your intestine happens to get incarcerated (‘stuck’) or strangulated (blood supply is cut off), this results in death of tissue and formation of gangrene. If treatment is not carried out promptly, peritonitis, which is infection and inflammation of the abdomen lining and its contents, may occur. Peritonitis is a life- threatening condition which should be avoided.

Why is surgery necessary for a femoral hernia?

Surgery is the only way to completely remove the femoral hernia and prevents serious complications which may otherwise occur. A femoral hernia typically does not reduce in size or go away by itself. More often than not, it continues to grow larger. A planned surgery is preferred to an emergency as it would involve fewer complications.

If a femoral hernia is diagnosed in a timely manner and suitably treated with surgery, the chances of it recurring is only between five to ten per cent. Should the femoral hernia get to a stage which requires emergency surgery, surgical complications can be more serious than that of a planned surgery.