A hernia is a weakness or defect in the abdominal wall. It may be present from birth or develop over a period of time. If the defect is large enough, abdominal contents such as the bowels may protrude through the defect causing a lump or bulge felt by the patient.
Hernias develop at certain sites which have a natural tendency to be weak, the groin, umbilicus (belly button), and previous surgical incisions.
Signs and Symptoms
- Lump in the groin area when standing/straining & disappears when reclining
- Pain at the site of the lump, especially when lifting a heavy object
- Swelling of the scrotum
- Excruciating abdominal pain (if you have strangulation)
- Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite & pain (if intestinal obstruction occurs)
Course of Hernia
Once a hernia has developed, it will tend to enlarge and cause discomfort. If a loop of bowel gets caught in the hernia, it may become obstructed or its blood supply may be cut off. This could then become a life-threatening situation. Since a hernia can be repaired effectively and with minimal risk, most surgeons recommend that a hernia be repaired when diagnosed, unless there is a serious medical problem which makes it too risky.
Open Hernia Surgery
The standard method of hernia repair involves making an incision in the abdominal wall. Normal healthy tissues are cut until the area of weakness is found. This area, the hernia, is then repaired with sutures. Often a prosthetic material, or another plastic material, is sutured in place to strengthen the area of weakness. Finally, the skin and other healthy tissues that were cut at the beginning are sutured back together to complete the repair.
Recovery after Surgery
You will be discharged a few days after the surgery. Following the surgery, your surgeon may recommend that you follow certain measures for a successful outcome:
- Retain the dressing over the incision for the first few days.
- Keep the surgical area clean and dry.
- Pain medicines or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are prescribed to manage pain.
- Your surgeon may give you activity restrictions, such as not to lift heavy objects.
- Maintain a healthy diet. You are advised to get out of bed and move around as soon as possible, safely.
- Regularly follow-up with your surgeon.
- Begin exercise, under the guidance of your doctor.
When to call a Doctor
Call your doctor if you experience symptoms including:
- Fever and chills
- Increased pain
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Leg pain