What is a hernia?
A hernia occurs when the inside layers of the abdominal wall weaken then bulge or tear. The inner lining of the abdomen pushes through the weakened area to form a balloon-like sac. This, in turn, can cause a loop of intestine or abdominal tissue to slip into the sac, causing severe pain and other potentially serious health problems.
Men and women of all ages can have hernias. Hernias usually occur either because of a natural weakness in the abdominal wall or from too much strain on the abdominal wall, such as:
- Strain from heavy lifting;
- Gaining a great deal of weight;
- Persistent coughing; or
- Difficulty with bowel movements or urination.
Eighty percent of all hernias are located near the groin. Hernias might also be found below the groin (femoral), through the navel (umbilical), and along an earlier incision, or cut (incisional).
What are the symptoms of hernias?
The symptoms of hernias include the following:
- A noticeable protrusion (bulge) in the groin area or in the abdomen.
- Feeling pain while lifting.
- A dull aching or dragging sensation.
- A vague feeling of fullness.
- Nausea and constipation.
Types of Hernia Surgery
Your doctor can remove your hernia in one of two ways. Both are done at a hospital or surgery center. You’ll usually go home within a few days. In many cases, you’ll be able to go home the same day as your procedure.
Open surgery: Before the operation, you’ll receive local or spinal anesthesia or you may receive general anesthesia.
The surgeon makes a cut (incision) to open your skin. He’ll gently push the hernia back into place, tie it off, or remove it. Then he’ll close the weak area of the muscle — where the hernia pushed through — with stitches. For larger hernias, your surgeon may add a piece of flexible mesh for extra support. It’ll help keep the hernia from coming back.
Laparoscopic surgery: In this surgery, your abdomen is inflated with a harmless gas. This gives the surgeon a better look of your organs. He’ll make a few small incisions (cuts) near the hernia. The surgeon uses images from the laparoscope as a guide to repair the hernia with mesh. For laparoscopic surgery, you’ll receive general anesthesia.
Recovery is usually faster with laparoscopic surgery: On average, patients are back to their normal routine a week sooner than with open surgery.
What are the benefits of laparoscopic hernia surgery?
The benefits of laparoscopic hernia surgery include the following:
- Several tiny scars rather than 1 large abdominal incision.
- A short hospital stay. (You might leave the day of surgery or the day after surgery.)
- Reduced pain after the surgery.
- Low hospital costs.
- Faster return to work.
- Shorter recovery time (days instead of weeks).
- Earlier return to daily activities.
Laparoscopic hernia surgery is as safe as open surgery, in carefully selected cases, when performed by specialists in this field.