What Is a Hernia?
A hernia occurs when there is a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or fascia (connective tissue), and an organ or fatty tissue pushes through that weak spot, creating a bulge. The most common types of hernia are:
- Inguinal (inner groin) Hernia – The bladder or intestine protrudes through the abdominal wall or into the inguinal canal in the groin. Most of these occur in men, due to a natural weakness in this area, with about 96% of groin hernias being inguinal.
- Incisional (resulting from an incision) Hernia – This is the most common type of hernia in elderly or overweight people who are inactive after abdominal surgery, where the intestine pushes through the wall at the site of the surgery.
- Femoral (outer groin) Hernia – Most common in women who are pregnant or obese, the intestine enters the canal through the femoral artery into the upper thigh.
- Umbilical (belly button) Hernia – Common in newborns, obese women, and women who have had many children, the small intestine passes through the abdominal wall near the navel.
- Hiatal (upper stomach) Hernia – the upper stomach pushes through the hiatus (an opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes).
What Causes a Hernia?
Hernias are caused by an opening or weakness of muscle or fascia and pressure that pushes an organ or tissue through the weak spot. Anything causing increased pressure can cause a hernia, including:
- Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the abdominal muscles
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Persistent coughing or sneezing
- Weakened muscles by obesity, poor nutrition, or smoking
What are the Symptoms of a Hernia?
- Swelling beneath the skin of the abdomen or groin
- It may be tender
- It may disappear when lying down
- Heavy feeling in the abdomen
- Constipation or blood in the stool
- Discomfort in the abdomen or groin when lifting or bending
- Hiatal hernias can cause heartburn and upper abdominal pain
- Seek medical care immediately if you can’t get a hernia to go back in – it could be incarcerated and can lead to organ strangulation
- Seek medical care immediately if you know you have a hernia and are experiencing nausea, vomiting, pain, or are unable to have a bowel movement or pass gas. These are signs of a strangulated hernia or obstruction.
What are the Treatment Options for a Hernia?
Umbilical hernias in babies may heal themselves within four years, so monitoring is recommended. For all other hernias it is possible to simply live with a hernia and just monitor it. The risk, however, is that the protruding organ may become strangulated where the blood supply becomes cut off, this can cause infection, tissue death, gangrene, intestinal perforation, shock, or even death. The best method of treatment is hernia repair surgery (herniorrhaphy).
What to Expect During Hernia Repair Surgery (Herniorrhaphy)?
Hernia repair can be done open or laparoscopically. Post-operative pain is less and recovery is quicker with laparoscopic surgery. Hernia repairs are usually done as an outpatient procedure. Local or general anesthesia is used, depending on the surgery required. If performed open, the surgeon will make one larger incision. If performed laparoscopically, there will be smaller incisions and the use of a telescope type instrument with a light, very small camera, and the surgeon will use a video monitor for guidance. Depending on the size of the muscle to be repaired, the surgeon will place the protruding organ back where it belongs and then stitch the edges of the healthy muscle tissue together or sew a synthetic mesh over it to reinforce it. When synthetic mesh is used the procedure is called a hernioplasty.
What to Expect After Hernia Surgery
Hernia surgeries are typically done as outpatient procedures. There are usually no dietary restrictions, and light activities may usually be resumed in two to three weeks. No strenuous activities for at least six weeks after Hernia Surgery. To reduce the risk of recurrence of a hernia, it is recommended to not lift anything larger than a gallon of milk for six weeks.
Some swelling is common after surgery, ice packs applied to the area for about 20 minutes every few hours will help with swelling. Contact your surgeon if you develop a fever, the incision becomes red or warm, or if the incision is bleeding through the dressing.
What are the Risks of Hernia Surgery?
The overall risk of laparoscopic hernia surgery is very low. The most serious possible complications include:
- negative reaction to anesthesia
- infection or bleeding at site of incision
- nerve damage
- numbness of the skin
- testicular atrophy in men
- damage to the vas deferens in men
- mesh infection
- damage to intra-abdominal organs
If you need hernia surgery, the surgeons at Central Valley Surgical Specialists will take good care of you!
It is our goal at Central Valley Surgical Specialists to bring the highest quality surgical care closer to home through innovation and collaboration.
8307 Brimhall Road Suite 1706
Bakersfield, CA 93312
Monday - Friday: 8am – 5pm