Hernia

A hernia is a condition that causes tissue to protrude through the abdominal wall. The best way to correct hernia is to undergo hernia surgery. This type of surgery is called herniorrhaphy and it is a fairly common procedure. The effectiveness of the surgery is dependent on a patient’s overall health, the severity of the hernia, and other factors, such as age and the strength of the abdominal wall. You and your doctor will determine if surgery is necessary for your hernia, and he or she will explain what you can expect from the procedure.

What is a Hernia?

A hernia occurs when the inner lining of the abdominal cavity bulges or protrudes through a tear in the abdominal wall. Hernias can affect men and women, but men are more often affected. The most common area for this to occur is the groin, which is called an inguinal hernia, but the condition can happen anywhere on the abdominal wall.

In addition to the inguinal hernia, there is also an umbilical hernia, which occurs in the navel, an incisional hernia, which is related to a surgical incision, and ventral, spigelian, and epigastric hernias.

Risk Factors for Hernia

Anyone can experience hernia, but there are some instances in which a person faces an increased risk. These include:
  • During heavy lifting
  • During muscle pulls and strains in the abdominal area
  • From chronic constipation
  • During frequent bouts of coughing
  • While straining to urinate

Hernia Symptoms

Symptoms can be sudden or gradual. Gradual hernias usually have only a bulge that progressively increases over time. Sudden hernias usually include pain, as well as an instant, noticeable bulge. In some cases, blood flow is blocked and there is swelling and discomfort. Typically hernias are not serious, but if the hernia strangulates, the intestine can die, which is a life threatening occurrence.

Hernia Surgery

The only way to cure a hernia is through surgery. Surgery can include pushing the tissue back to its original location or removing it from the body. Both are elective surgeries, unless the hernia has strangulated. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis, but severe cases might require a hospital stay.

There are several types of hernia surgery. Doctors determine surgery type in relation to hernia type. Most are treated with a mesh material that reinforces the weakened area of the abdominal wall. Mesh implants create a tension-free repair and decrease recovery time and pain. Mesh also reduces the risk for future hernias. Small umbilical hernias are usually treated with sutures and inguinal hernias are repaired with a small groin incision, which is known as the open surgery technique.

If abdominal wall hernias are severe or recurrent, a technique called “complex abdominal wall reconstruction” is sometimes utilized. This involves manipulating the abdominal wall to repair the hernia in several layers, usually using a combination of the patient’s native tissue and synthetic material.

Surgical Complications

Hernia surgeries are considered very safe, but as with all surgeries, there are risks involved. These include:
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Injury to other organs
  • Recurrence
  • Injury to cord, testicle, or vas deferens
  • Numbness
  • Chronic pain
  • Complications related to anesthesia or the mesh insert
  • Adhesions or scar tissue

Recovery

Outpatient hernia surgery requires one to two hours of recovery time following the procedure in the hospital or surgery center. Once the anesthetic wears off, patients can return home. They are usually given oral medication to reduce the pain. Constipation is a common problem in the days following surgery, so some patients are also given a stool softener.

Patients are typically cleared to return to a normal routine within three to five days and are permitted to engage in strenuous activity within four to six weeks. There is occasionally some bruising near the surgery site, and some inguinal hernia surgeries also cause swelling or bruising of the penis and scrotum. Patients are permitted to shower within 24 hours of surgery.

A follow-up appointment is required within a week or two after surgery.