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Signs of Obturator Hernia in Elderly Women

Signs of Obturator Hernia in Elderly Women

Obturator hernia is a very rare type of hernia that occurs deep in the pelvis in which the pelvic floor or abdominal contents protrudes through the obturator foramen. 

This type of hernia presents more commonly in women, particularly elderly women, and is associated with a higher death rate which is why a fast diagnosis and treatment is critical. Obturator hernias tend to have a larger impact on elderly women as aging can cause loosening of muscle mass and fatty tissue which may result in the intestinal tissues or organs entering the obturator canal. 

Multiple births, obesity, or rapid weight loss can also cause an obturator hernia, but again, this hernia most commonly presents in thinner, elderly women.

Symptoms of Obturator Hernia 

An early diagnosis can prove difficult as the signs and symptoms of an obturator hernia are somewhat nonspecific and can mimic other health complications.

  • Bowel obstruction (especially repeated instances)
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Inner thigh pain (Howship-Romberg sign)
  • Tangible mass on the medical aspect of the thigh
  • Pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Obturator hernia can be diagnosed through imaging tests (CT scan, ultrasound scan, MRI scan), but is more commonly discovered during exploratory surgery for an intestinal obstruction. 


The type of hernia, patient preference, status of the patient’s health, and surgeon experience all play a role in any hernia treatment. But generally speaking, an obturator hernia is very serious and can be life-threatening. As a result, laparoscopic surgery is highly recommended for treating an obturator hernia. The final decision as to which approach should be utilized should be made in consultation with your surgeon. 

Next Steps with Obturator Hernia

If you’re concerned you or someone you care for may have this type of hernia, here are a few next steps to take. If the patient is dealing with extreme pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, or prolonged episodes of constipation (more than 72 hours without a bowel movement), proceed immediately to the closest emergency room. If the patient is 65-years or older, it is important to specifically state your concern for an obturator hernia. Make it clear to the emergency room physicians you want the patient checked for this type of hernia. 

Otherwise contact your primary physician, list your symptoms and concerns, and ask for a referral to a hernia specialist. 

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