Hernia Types: Femoral Hernias

Hernia Info Authors

About Femoral Hernias1

A relatively uncommon type of hernia, femoral hernias account for only 3% of all hernias and are 10x more common in women than men due to the wider shape of the female pelvis.1 They occur when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh. It pushes through a weakened spot in the abdominal wall into an area called the femoral canal.

Common Symptoms of Femoral Hernias2,3

In many cases, you may not even realize you have a femoral hernia. Oftentimes, small-to-moderate femoral hernias don’t have any symptoms, and, in many cases, you may not even see a bulge. However, moderate-to-large femoral hernias may cause a large, noticeable bulge in the groin near your upper thigh, and you may experience pain or discomfort when you:

  • Stand up or move around.
  • Lift heavy objects.
  • Carry/push heavy loads.
  • Strain in any way.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience severe symptoms or complications, including:

  • Intense stomach pain.
  • Sudden groin pain.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Difficulty urinating or passing a bowel movement.
  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, tenderness.
  • If your hernia looks bigger or becomes incarcerated and can’t be pushed back in.

These may signify a serious condition called 'strangulation’ where an obstruction of your intestines can cut off blood flow causing intestinal or bowel tissue to die. Strangulation can happen in all hernias but is more common in femoral and inguinal due to their narrow ‘necks.’1 Additionally, around 30% of femoral hernia cases will present as an emergency obstruction or strangulation.4

Potential Causes of Femoral Hernias2,3

The exact cause of femoral hernias is unknown. Some femoral hernias may be present due to a congenital birth defect while others may result from overstraining and a weakening of the muscle walls. Contributing factors may also include:

  • Childbirth 
  • Chronic constipation
  • Chronic cough
  • Intense, heavy lifting
  • Obesity
  • Straining during urination or bowel movements

Ways to Diagnose Femoral Hernias

To identify whether you have a femoral hernia, your healthcare provider will likely begin with a physical examination. During the exam, they will gently touch the area; if the hernia is large, the bulge will likely be felt. If the hernia isn’t detectable by touch or visible from the outside, an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI of the abdominal or groin area may be ordered to make a diagnosis. 

Treatments for Femoral Hernias3

If your femoral hernia is small-to-moderate in size, your doctor may recommend you ‘watch and wait’ where your condition will be monitored to see if symptoms progress. If your femoral hernia is moderate-to-large and causing you discomfort, or detracting from your quality of life, your doctor may recommend surgery. 

Surgical Treatment

There are two primary surgical options for femoral hernia repair: open and laparoscopic. The appropriate type of surgery for you may depend on the size, severity, and location of your hernia. Ask your doctor about which option is right for you.

  • Open Surgery: As the traditional surgical method, an open surgical procedure involves making a large incision over the area of the hernia. The hernia bulge is returned to its correct position and a mesh is often placed to help strengthen and support the weakened area before closing up the incision.

  • Laparoscopic Surgery: A surgeon will use several small, ‘key-hole’ sized incisions during laparoscopic surgery. Instruments, such as a camera, are then inserted through the incisions to perform the operation.

Learn more about surgical techniques here.

What Are the Next Steps to Treat a Femoral Hernia?

If you have symptoms of a femoral hernia, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to have it diagnosed and to rule out other possible causes of pain.


The guidance provided in this article follows general rules that should be discussed with your doctor. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not substitute for medical advice. If in doubt, always consult your doctor.

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