A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ bulges through a weak area of muscle. Most hernias occur in the abdomen. There are several types of hernias, including
Hernias are common. They can affect men, women and children. A combination of muscle weakness and straining, such as with heavy lifting, might contribute. Some people are born with weak abdominal muscles and may be more likely to get a hernia.
The usual treatment for a hernia is surgery to repair the opening in the muscle wall. Untreated hernias can cause pain and health problems.
There are two kinds of hernia repair:
More than 700,000 are repaired each year in the United States, and additional hernia repair procedures are done to correct hernias in other parts of the body. For most people, a hernia repair does not require overnight hospitalization. Occasionally, people with other serious medical conditions will need a brief hospital stay.
Although there are many different types of hernias, the most common occurs when a portion of the intestine or a bit of fat pokes through an area of weakness in the muscular wall of the abdomen. This causes an abnormal bulge under the skin, often near the groin or the navel. Men are much more likely than women to develop groin hernias. In men there is normally a small hole or defect in the abdominal wall in the groin, where the cord to the testicle passes through. If this defect enlarges abnormally, it can lead to a hernia there.
Hernias can cause pain or pressure or can appear as a painless lump. Most hernias become larger over time and will not permanently resolve on their own. There is a small risk that part of the bowel could get trapped within the hernia, which could lead to a medical emergency. Not all hernias need to be repaired, but you may choose to have surgery if:
Most hernias are diagnosed during an office visit with your doctor, and surgery will be planned at a later time, at your convenience. Your doctor will review your medical history and examine you. If there is any chance you might be pregnant, you should inform your doctor before surgery. Your doctor may order certain tests, such as blood tests or an , to make sure that you can undergo surgery safely. About one week before your hernia repair, your doctor may ask you to stop taking aspirin and other medications that could increase the risk of bleeding. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything beginning the night before surgery (except medicines), to reduce the risk of vomiting during surgery.
On the day of your surgery, you should wear loose-fitting clothing. Ask your doctor if you should take your regular medications with a sip of water. You also should make necessary arrangements for someone to drive you home after the surgery.
Hernia repair can be done under different kinds of anesthesia, including general anesthesia, in which you are unconscious during the procedure; and spinal, regional or local anesthesia, in which you are awake but pain is blocked in the area of surgery. An intravenous line is inserted into one of your veins to deliver fluids and medications. The procedure generally takes less than one or two hours to do.
After surgery, you will be monitored closely and given pain medication. Most people recover within a few hours and can go home the same day.
Most people can return to desk work, driving and other light activities within a few days of surgery. If you work at a more physical job, you may need to wait for two weeks or more.
You will visit your doctor for follow-up some weeks after surgery. Your doctor will remove any stitches and check the healing of your incisions. You also should speak with your doctor about when you can resume specific activities such as sports, heavy labor and lifting.
Hernia repair is generally very safe surgery. Nevertheless, there is always a small risk of complications including infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, or injury to the intestine, testicle or other nearby structures.
In children, hernia repair has long-term success in 99 percent of cases. Typically, in adults, the hernia returns in less than 10 percent of people. The rate can be higher in some special situations, however.
Once you return home, call your doctor immediately if: