A hernia is the protrusion of organs, such as intestines, through a weakened section of the abdominal wall. If left untreated, the split in the muscle widens and greater amounts of tissue or organs are pushed through the opening, forming a sac. This visible lump or bulge is one of the key characteristics of a hernia. The weakened abdominal wall can be present at birth, or may develop later in life. The most common site is the groin, but hernias can also form in other areas, such as the navel.
If the lump can be gently pushed back through the abdominal wall, it is known as a reducible hernia. If the lump resists manual pressure, it is a non-reducible hernia, which can mean serious complications. Both types require surgical repair. Approximately 40,000 Australians have their hernias surgically repaired every year, making this one of the most common operations.