An abdominal hernia occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through one of the muscle walls in the abdomen. When this happens, an individual may experience sharp pain in the groin area. And if a hernia goes unaddressed, the problem may escalate over time.
La Peer Health Systems takes a team-centric approach to help patients address hernias. We employ expert surgeons who collaborate with patients to treat hernia symptoms. Plus, we offer a wide range of hernia treatments to provide long-lasting hernia pain relief.
WHAT IS A HERNIA?
A hernia is a sac (formed by the lining of the abdominal cavity) that comes through a weak area or defect in the abdominal wall that is surrounded by the abdominal muscles. It sometimes only causes mild discomfort but can grow larger and strangulate nearby blood vessels.
TYPES OF HERNIAS
There are several different hernia types, and they are classified by where they occur in the body. They include:
- Femoral Hernia: May appear as a painful lump in the inner upper part of the thigh or groin. Femoral hernias occur when fatty tissue or a portion of the bowel extends into the groin at the top portion of the inner thigh. Femoral hernias tend to occur more frequently in women in men, and they are more prevalent in older women than others.
- Hiatal Hernia: Occurs when the upper part of the stomach extends beyond the diaphragm (muscle that separates the chest and abdomen). A hiatal hernia causes the stomach to push through the diaphragm and into the chest. A small hiatal hernia may be benign, but a large hiatal hernia may push food and acid back up into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn.
- Incisional Hernia: Refers to a hernia that develops at the site of a healing surgical scar. An incisional hernia usually appears as a “bulge” that becomes visible when an individual stands upright or performs heavy lifting or other physical activity. Individuals who underwent abdominal surgery may be at greater risk than others for developing incisional hernias. Also, incisional hernias cannot heal on their own.
- Inguinal Hernia: Occurs when tissue extends through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles. Inguinal hernias can be painful, particularly when a person coughs, bends over or lifts heavy objects.
- Umbilical Hernia: Refers to a hernia that forms when the abdominal walls do not connect properly. An umbilical hernia causes the intestine or other tissues from inside the abdominal cavity to extend through the weak spot around the belly button. Most umbilical hernias do not cause any discomfort. Additionally, umbilical hernias may close on their own.
A femoral hernia presents as a bulge just below the groin area in the upper portion of the thigh. Femoral hernias are more common in women than men. Hiatal hernias are located in the upper part of the stomach and occur when part of the stomach pushes up into the chest. Incisional hernias occur through scars from a past abdominal surgery. Inguinal hernias are the most common hernia and present as a bulge or pain in the groin. They are more likely to occur in men than women. Inguinal hernias can go all the way from the groin into the scrotum. Umbilical hernias are bulges near the belly button, and they are caused when naval area muscle doesn’t close completely.
HERNIA CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
Common hernia symptoms include discomfort and pain that worsens when standing, straining or lifting heavy objects.
What Does a Hernia Feel Like?
If you experience any of the following hernia symptoms, you should call your doctor:
- Groin pain, swelling or a bulge
- A bulge or swelling near the belly button
- A painful hernia that cannot be pushed back gently through pressure into the abdomen
- Nausea, vomiting or a fever with a painful hernia
- A hernia that is dark red, dark purple or discolored
What Causes a Hernia?
Hernias occur due to heavy lifting, straining on the toilet and other activities that cause pressure inside of the abdomen.
Are Hernias Hereditary?
Some patients are predisposed to hernias due to a family history. Approximately one out of 20 children have inguinal hernias (occurring more in boys than girls), but they might not experience any symptoms until adulthood. And once a hernia is discovered, it is important to get it treated to avoid complications.
UNTREATED HERNIA COMPLICATIONS
Possible complications for untreated hernias include:
- Autoimmune problems
- Obstruction of a cavity or tube (i.e. bowel obstruction in intestinal hernias)
Do All Hernias Need Surgery?
Surgery is currently the only way to permanently fix a hernia.
LAPAROSCOPIC HERNIA SURGERY
Today, hernia repair can be performed through minimally invasive laparoscopy. A laparoscope has a camera attached so that the doctor does not need to open up the abdomen to see inside. Instead, the camera relays to a TV monitor in the operating room that the surgeon can use to see inside of the abdomen. Other small incisions are made to insert the surgical instruments needed to perform the hernia repair operation.
How Should I Prepare for Hernia Surgery?
A patient should not consume alcohol for at least two days prior to hernia surgery. Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to interfere with the effects of anesthesia that may be administered before surgery.
In some instances, a surgeon will request a patient stop taking his or her blood thinning medications a few days prior to a hernia procedure. A patient should notify a surgeon about his or her current blood thinning medications before surgery. Then, a surgeon can provide recommendations about whether a patient should continue to take these medications in the days leading up to treatment.
A patient may be asked to avoid herbal supplements prior to hernia surgery as well. Sometimes, herbal supplement can have side effects on anesthetic or sedation, and a patient may need to stop using these supplements for up to one week before surgery.
How Long Does Hernia Surgery Take?
On average, a hernia repair surgery requires about two hours to complete. A doctor will meet with a patient prior to surgery to establish treatment goals and help this individual plan for surgery.
Is Hernia Surgery Painful?
A doctor does everything possible to limit pain during hernia surgery. He or she may administer general, regional or local anesthesia prior to treatment. General anesthesia helps a patient sleep during surgery. Regional anesthesia numbs a patient from the waist to the feet. Local anesthesia helps a patient remain relaxed during surgery.
TYPES OF HERNIA SURGERY
One type of hernia operation, known as a herniotomy, involves the removal of just the hernia sac and does not repair the inguinal canal. A herniotomy can be reinforced with the repair of the inguinal canal wall with the patient’s own tissue (autogenous material) or Prolene mesh (heterogeneous material).
Herniorrhaphy is a surgical procedure that pushes back (“reduces”) the herniated tissue and then mends the weakness in muscle tissue. If any complications of the hernia have occurred, then the general surgeon will check the viability of the herniated organ and resect it.
Patients may experience postoperative nausea, pain, fatigue and dizziness, but these symptoms are temporary. Meanwhile, patients may stand, walk and climb stairs after surgery, but they may experience mild discomfort when they do so. Patients also can shower and use a treadmill or stationary bike one day after surgery. Soreness may persist for several days after surgery as well.
RECOVERY FROM HERNIA SURGERY
The overall recovery period following hernia repair surgery lasts up to 14 days. Patients may experience mild to moderate incisional pain and mild groin discomfort. However, these issues disappear on their own within a few weeks of treatment.
Patients usually can return to low-impact, non-contact sports activities within a few days of hernia surgery. However, a patient may require several weeks before he or she can resume strenuous activities or exercise. A surgeon will also provide full details about any activity restrictions that a patient may face in the weeks following surgery.
A follow-up appointment with a surgeon should be scheduled within two weeks of surgery. During the follow-up appointment, a surgeon will evaluate a patient’s recovery and can respond to any concerns or questions.
HERNIA SURGERY COMPLICATIONS
Complications from hernia surgery can occur. These complications include:
- Hernia recurrence
- Chronic pain
- Nerve, blood vessel and nearby organ injuries
CONTACT A HERNIA REPAIR SPECIALIST TODAY
The Department of General Surgery at La Peer Health Systems is a leading hernia center in Los Angeles. If you want to learn more about hernia surgery in Los Angeles, you can reach us by phone 855.360.9119, email or by filling out our contact form.
Next, visit Hernia Surgery Los Angeles, a La Peer website devoted entirely to the treatment of hernias.
Next, read about Pilonidal Disease.