Emergency Symptoms of a Hernia

Abdominal hernias usually occur when there is a weakening or defect in the muscles and tissues of the abdominal wall. When strain is placed on the abdominal wall, part of the intestines can break through the weakening wall, causing a mass to protrude from the abdomen. Though most hernias are not immediately threatening to health, knowing the emergency symptoms of hernia can help prevent a more serious situation from developing.

Man with a drink in his hand holding his stomach Credit: toranico/iStock/Getty Images

Bowel Obstruction

Merck.com states that symptoms of bowel obstruction in a patient with a hernia can indicate an emergency situation. Symptoms of bowel obstruction include alternating episodes constipation and diarrhea, slight enlargement of the abdomen and abdominal pain. Bowel obstruction indicates that the abdominal wall is constricting the intestinal contents of the hernia to such a degree that feces cannot properly pass. This is usually a precursor to hernia strangulation.


Most hernias do not present with true pain or tenderness, but rather with a dull ache. Merck.com reports that a painful and tender hernia is a sign of strangulation. Strangulation occurs when the part of the intestine that has protruded from the abdominal wall no longer has a blood supply. The opening that the hernia has passed through is so tight that it cuts off the artery that is providing that part of the intestine with blood. This situation can cause the herniated part of the intestine to begin to die and this process elicits pain in the patient.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are usually not seen in less serious cases of hernia. According to MedlinePlus, a website of the National Institutes of Health, the presence of nausea and vomiting is a sign that the hernia is becoming strangulated and is starting to die. Nausea and vomiting in the presence of a hernia is usually a symptom of an emergency situation.


MedlinePlus lists fever as a sign that a hernia has started to become strangulated. The fever is caused by the death of intestinal tissue. Dead tissue leads to the proliferation of bacteria and a gangrenous state. The gangrene starts to produce chemicals that are toxic to the body. In response, the body's immune system attacks the gangrenous part of the intestine. This raises body temperature. A high fever is a dire symptom in the prognosis of strangulated hernias.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.