Hernias are caused by one internal part of the body protruding out of the area in which it is normally contained. This protrusion can be the result of natural weakness in the thin membrane lining, or outside influences like a surgical incision. A femoral hernia occurs in the mid-thigh area, where the femoral canal is located.
The femoral sheath is a path that leads from the abdominal cavity to the thigh. The femoral artery, femoral vein, and femoral canal travel through this path. When a femoral hernia is experienced, a portion of the intestine has moved into the femoral canal, which is typically filled with lymphatics. This movement results in a noticeable bulge just below the inguinal crease, or roughly the mid-thigh.
Femoral hernias occur mostly in women. They are more likely to occur in pregnant, obese, elderly, bedridden, or otherwise frail women. Cases of femoral hernia in children have been documented, but only rarely.
Symptoms may or may not be painful, and include a lump in the groin area to the mid thigh. Complications arise from the presence of a femoral hernia in varying degrees. Serious problems can include gangrene of the bowels, intestinal obstruction, and small bowel obstruction. The chances of a femoral hernia becoming irreducible are high. Irreducible hernias are not able to be pushed back into place.
A femoral hernia also has a high risk of becoming strangulated. When a piece of the intestine is caught by the hernia and twisted, this is known as strangulation. It can cause reduced blood flow to the twisted area, or even complete intestinal blockage. Strangulation can also cause the bulge to grow larger and more painful.
The lump or bulge caused by a femoral hernia has a globular shape, as opposed to the pear shaped lump caused by an inguinal hernia. Aside from this difference, it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. Surgery is often performed before doctors are able to diagnose which type of hernia is present.
Like other hernias, femoral hernias need surgical intervention. This operation is typically an elective procedure. However, a high risk of complications often necessitates emergency surgery. An emergency treatment is also required if the hernia has become irreducible, and attempts to push it back into place have failed.
Patients undergoing elective surgery to repair a femoral hernia usually recover quickly and without many complications. If a patient requires emergency hernia surgery, however, the risks are greatly increased. The dangers associated with this operation are directly determined by the level of obstruction of the bowels. Large obstructions make it more difficult to repair or move the hernia.