- Clinical science
A femoral hernia is an uncommon type of inguinal hernia, in which intra-abdominal contents (e.g., intraperitoneal fat, mesentery, bowels) herniate into the femoral canal through the femoral ring. Risk factors for femoral hernias include old age, female gender, obesity, and previous hernia repair. Patients present with a globular swelling inferior to the inguinal ligament and medial to the femoral vein that worsens with coughing or straining. The diagnosis is primarily clinical with ultrasonography being indicated if the diagnosis is inconclusive. Although femoral hernias are uncommon, they are associated with a high risk of incarceration and strangulation and should, therefore, be surgically treated as early as possible. The preferred treatment for non-complicated femoral hernias is mesh hernioplasty, while repair without a mesh is used for complicated femoral hernias.
- Uncommon hernia (∼ 5% of all hernias)
- Sex: ♀ > ♂ (3:1)
- Peak incidence: 40–70 years
Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.
- Advancing age and female gender (see “Epidemiology” above)
- Increased intra-abdominal pressure
- Sudden weight loss
- Previous abdominal surgeries (especially those involving the inguinal region)
In contrast to indirect inguinal hernias, which may occur congenitally, femoral hernias are almost always acquired.
Boundaries of the femoral canal
- Anterior: inguinal ligament (Poupart's ligament)
- Posterior: pubic ramus and pectineal ligament
- Medial: lacunar ligament (Gimbernat ligament)
- Lateral: femoral vein
- Typical femoral hernia: (common): protrusion of intraperitoneal contents along with the transverse abdominal fascia through the femoral ring into the femoral canal
Atypical femoral hernias (rare)
- Beclard's hernia: herniation through the saphenous opening and cribriform fascia into the superficial fascia of the thigh
- Callisen's hernia (Cloquet's hernia): herniation into the thigh, behind the femoral vessels, and through the aponeurosis of the pectineus muscle
- Narath's hernia (Teale's hernia, prevascular hernia): a hidden herniation in front of the femoral vessels
- Serafine's hernia (retrovascular hernia): herniation into the thigh behind the femoral vessels
- De Laugier hernia (Velpeau's hernia, lacunar ligament femoral hernia): herniation into the thigh through a congenital weakness in the lacunar ligament (Gimbernat ligament)
- Hesselbach's diverticular hernia: secondary herniation lateral to the femoral vessels through the saphenous opening and cribriform fascia
- Cooper's bisaccular hernia: secondary herniation through the femoral sheath
- Cooper's femorogenital hernia: secondary herniation into the scrotum or labia majora due to a weakness of the inguinal skin fold
Non-complicated femoral hernia
- A globular, subcutaneous swelling in the groin
Localization: inferior to the inguinal ligament, lateral to the pubic tubercle, and medial to the femoral vein
- Unilateral in 80% of cases; bilateral in 20%
- Rarely, the swelling may appear in atypical locations (see “Pathophysiology” above)
- Swelling enlarges with coughing (palpable cough impulse) or a Valsalva maneuver
- Occasionally, the swelling is reducible. After reduction, the following tests can be performed:
- Localization: inferior to the inguinal ligament, lateral to the pubic tubercle, and medial to the femoral vein
- Possibly, non-specific, dragging pain
- A globular, subcutaneous swelling in the groin
- Complicated femoral hernia: see “Complications” below
- A femoral hernia is primarily a clinical diagnosis.
- Groin ultrasound is used when the diagnosis is inconclusive (see “Differential diagnosis” below).
- Abdominal CT is indicated if incarceration or strangulation are suspected (see “Complications” below)
Femoral hernias can be difficult to palpate in obese patients. US is indicated if an FH is suspected in this patient group!
- Non-complicated femoral hernia: laparoscopic or open early elective surgical repair with mesh hernioplasty (tension-free repair)
- Complicated femoral hernia: (see “Complications” below): open herniorrhaphy (non-mesh repair) using a McVay procedure
All femoral hernias should be surgically repaired because of the high risk of complications.
- Incarceration: irreducible femoral hernia due to trapped hernia contents in hernia sac
Strangulation: ischemic necrosis of contents within the hernia sac as blood flow is compromised due to incarceration
- A femoral hernia may be irreducible
- A cough impulse may not be present
- Warm, tender, and erythematous/discolored swelling
- Features of
- Possibly fever, leukocytosis, and hemodynamic instability
- Features of supervene once bowel perforation and/or peritonitis develop
Although femoral hernias account for only about 5% of all hernias, they account for about 40% of all complicated hernias! Approx. 25% of femoral hernias will become incarcerated and/or obstructed, and the cumulative 3-month and 2-year incidence of strangulation is about 10 times higher in femoral hernias than other .
A femoral hernia should be considered among 40–70-year-old women presenting with signs of mechanical bowel obstruction!
We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.