An umbilical granuloma is one of the most common umbilical abnormalities in newborns. The granuloma looks like a ball of moist, red tissue on the bellybutton.

They most frequently occur in newborns once the stump of umbilical cord has fallen off.

The umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta during pregnancy. Containing arteries and veins, it carries nutrients, oxygen, and waste between the mother and baby.

After birth, the umbilical cord is cut, separating the baby from the placenta. A small stump of the cord is left on the navel, and it usually falls off within 1 to 2 weeks.

A doctor or midwife will provide guidance about caring for the healing navel before the baby is discharged from the hospital or birthing center.

Symptoms

A doctor will inspect a newborn for umbilical granuloma during regular checkups.
A doctor will inspect a newborn for umbilical granuloma during regular checkups.

An umbilical granuloma is a moist, red lump of tissue on the navel. Additional symptoms may include:

  • oozing
  • the presence of sticky mucus
  • mild irritation of the skin around the navel

Umbilical granulomas are usually not a cause for concern, and they do not cause pain or discomfort.

However, they occasionally become infected. Symptoms of an infection may include:

  • a fever
  • pain or discomfort when the navel or surrounding tissue is touched
  • increased swelling
  • warmth or redness in the area
  • red streaks leading from the navel
  • pus draining from the granuloma

A doctor will examine a newborn’s navel during each checkup, especially after the stump of umbilical cord has fallen off.

A parent or caregiver should report any unusual symptoms at these visits. If they suspect an infection, they should contact a doctor right away.

Causes

The medical community is uncertain what causes umbilical granulomas. They are not related to the quality of care a baby receives or any other health conditions.

However, these granulomas may be more likely to develop if it takes longer than 2 weeks for the umbilical cord to fall off.

Granulomas in adults

It is rare but possible for an adult to develop an umbilical granuloma. They most commonly form after navel piercings.

As a piercing heals, granulation tissue will form around the area. This tissue is new and rich in small blood vessels. When too much granulation tissue is produced, a granuloma can form.

Doctors recommend the same treatments when these granulomas form in adults and newborns. However, if the granuloma does not go away with treatment, a piercing should be removed to encourage complete healing.

Treatment

surgical thread.
Surgical thread may be used to cut off the blood supply to the granuloma so that it falls off by itself.

A doctor may suggest watching and waiting to see if a granuloma goes away without treatment. They examine it at regular checkups and make sure that it is healing.

If the granuloma does not go away over time, the following options are available:

  • Silver nitrate: Applying this topical solution can cause a granuloma to dry out, shrink, and disappear. This may require several visits. Silver nitrate is the most common treatment in newborns.
  • Liquid nitrogen: This will cause the tissue to freeze and fall off.
  • Surgical thread: A doctor may tie off the base of the granuloma with surgical thread. This cuts off blood supply to the tissue, and it will eventually fall off.
  • Surgical removal: In a final resort, the doctor can gently remove the tissue using a scalpel or knife.

Removing an umbilical granuloma does not cause discomfort or pain.

At follow-up visits, a doctor will determine if the granuloma is healing appropriately or if additional treatment is required.

Home care

Follow a doctor’s instructions when caring for an infant with a granuloma.

Some instructions may include:

  • Changing diapers frequently. Keeping the diaper area clean and free of moisture will promote healing and help to prevent infection.
  • Positioning the diaper below the bellybutton. Roll the top of the diaper down at the front, so that it sits under the navel. This will help to keep the area clean.
  • Giving the baby sponge baths. A baby’s skin is more likely to dry following sponge baths, rather than soaks in the tub. When the navel area is dry, a granuloma is likely to heal more quickly.

Outlook

Umbilical granulomas are common abnormalities in newborns. In most cases, treatment will provide a complete recovery without complications.

Speak to a doctor if a granuloma shows any signs of infection, or if it does not heal over time.