WHAT IS A HERNIA?
A hernia is a hole in the fascia (gristle) of the abdominal wall. Hernias can be congenital (you are born with it) or acquired (occurring secondary to lifting or strenuous activity). Once a hernia develops, the hole in the fascia will not close on its own, and over time may become larger.
WHERE DO HERNIAS OCCUR?
Common locations for hernias include the belly button and both groins. Hernias can also occur at the site of a previous surgery incision of the abdominal wall. Hernias can also occur where the esophagus passes through the diaphragm (hiatal hernia).
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GET A HERNIA EVALUATED?
Hernias can enlarge over time associated with lifting, straining, coughing, or activities of daily living. If a hernia becomes large enough, a loop of intestine can slip into a hernia and become trapped (incarcerated), which can lead to intestinal obstruction of death or the trapped loop (strangulation).
HOW ARE HERNIAS REPAIRED?
The goal of hernia surgery is to close the hole in the abdominal wall to prevent abdominal fat or intestines from pushing through the hole. This is often done with the closure of the fascia (gristle) with sutures and reinforcement of that closure with a piece of synthetic mesh. This enhances the strength and durability of the repair.
WHAT IS THE RECOVERY TIME AFTER HERNIA SURGERY?
The surgeon will usually ask patients to avoid strenuous activity for some weeks after the surgery. This allows the repair and the incision to heal and become strong.
HOW CAN I AVOID DEVELOPING A HERNIA?
There is no specific way to avoid a hernia. Even professional athletes who have very strong muscles in the abdominal wall can develop inguinal (groin) hernias, as this is an anatomically vulnerable area. Cessation of smoking and avoidance of significant weight gain can help decrease the likelihood of hernia formation.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IF I THINK I HAVE A HERNIA?
Hernia symptoms often include, discomfort, ache, or burning sensation at the site of a hernia, often worsened with a cough or lifting. Sometimes a bulge will be present that may go away at night (reducible hernia). A hernia bulge that does not recede when lying down may be incarcerated and should be evaluated as soon as possible.