A hernia is defined as a weakness or defect in the strong layer of the abdominal wall, which allows the abdominal organs to protrude. Once out of their normal position, these organs can become pinched or twisted. The most common hernia symptoms are pain, nausea, vomiting, and a mass or lump that may come and go. Hernias are commonly caused by previous surgical incisions, but can also occur without a previous surgery.
What Are the Symptoms of a Hernia?
Hernias can create a variety of unpleasant symptoms, which will vary based on the patient’s health and the type of hernia they have developed. Common signs that tend to accompany hernias include the following:
- A lump or bulge in the abdomen or groin
- Pain or discomfort near the bulge
- Difficulty with urination
- Nausea and vomiting
The most common cause of dull, persistent groin pain is strains in the muscle and tendons that cross the hip joint. However, it can also be related to abnormalities within the abdominal wall, such as inguinal hernias of the abdominal rectus muscles and oblique muscles. A physical exam must be performed to determine the exact cause of the groin pain.
What Are the Different Types of Hernias?
Abdominal Wall Hernias
Hernias in the abdominal wall, also known as ventral hernias, can include epigastric and umbilical hernias. An epigastric hernia develops in the middle of the upper abdomen. An umbilical hernia forms around the navel, and is more common in pregnant women or obese patients.
Patients who have undergone abdominal surgery in the past can develop an incisional hernia. This can occur immediately after surgery or years later due to the weakened area.
Inguinal and femoral hernias occur in the groin. An inguinal hernia is more common in men and develops in the inner crease of the groin. A femoral hernia is located below the groin in the thigh—more specifically, where the femoral artery and vein enter the leg.
Sports Hernias (Athletic Pubalgia)
If an inguinal hernia or other abdominal abnormality is not present, then the condition can often be diagnosed as “athletic pubalgia,” or sports hernia. This occurs when muscles, tendons, or ligaments tear in the lower abdomen or groin. Unfortunately, a sports hernia does not usually heal on its own, so surgery is often the most effective treatment.
What Does Hernia Surgery Involve?
To treat a hernia, surgical repair is required. There are no special exercises that can strengthen the tissues or any medications to take. Repair of the hernia is achieved by closing the defect. A special synthetic material called a “mesh” is commonly utilized in repairing the defect in order to add extra strength. Surgical repair can be performed by using conventional techniques, advanced laparoscopic surgery, or robotic hernia surgery. With the latest minimally invasive techniques, we can repair even a large hernia through tiny incisions. This allows for shorter hospital stays, less post-operative pain and a quicker return to normal activity.
With laparoscopic surgery, several small incisions are used to remove some of the damaged tissue. Instead of a primary repair with stitches, mesh is used to strengthen and reinforce the area, creating a tension-free repair. Laparoscopic surgical techniques make it possible to perform surgery through much smaller openings than those used in conventional surgery. As a result, we do not need to make cuts through the muscle or suture under tension. Because there is no tension on the repair, this helps individuals return to their activities faster and reduces the risk of recurrence of the hernia.
What Can I Expect in My Recovery from Hernia Surgery?
While some individuals may take a bit longer to recover immediately after surgery, many laparoscopic hernia repair patients can leave the hospital within hours after the procedure. The surgeon evaluates the status of each patient and determines when he or she can be released on a case-by-case basis.
After laparoscopic surgery, a majority of patients experience significantly less pain and are able to get back into normal activity—including sports—much more quickly. Typical recovery time for laparoscopic hernia repair is less than one week, versus up to 4 weeks for conventional open hernia repair.
Contact Us About Hernia Repair
Are you experiencing symptoms that indicate you may have a hernia? Contact our team at Suburban Surgical Care Specialists/Kane Center to schedule an appointment. One of our experienced surgeons will evaluate your concerns to determine if a hernia has developed.