Hernias: What You Need to Know

A hernia happens when part of an internal organ or tissue bulges through a weak area of muscle, usually in the abdomen. While there are several types of hernias, the most common kinds are inguinal (groin) and umbilical hernias. Inguinal hernias are more commonly found in men and often begin developing shortly before or after birth. Umbilical hernias form directly underneath the navel. Hernias that occur at the site of previous surgery are also quite common.

A hernia is usually fairly straightforward to diagnose, as a patient will often feel a bulge, accompanied by localized pain or discomfort, and may even feel something pushing through the hernia. Less commonly, one will only feel general pain or discomfort in the area without being able to localize its origin.

There are many treatments that offer temporary relief from the pain caused by a hernia, but surgery is the only cure. Depending on the type of hernia, doctors will recommend either open or laparoscopic surgical repair.

  • Open surgery – The surgeon makes an incision directly over the hernia, and mesh is usually used to close the hole formed by the hernia. This can often be done on an outpatient basis, under local anesthesia with sedation.
  • Laparoscopic surgery – The surgeon inserts small tubes called ports through the abdominal wall, and the surgical mesh is placed through these tubes. This approach can be used for both small and large abdominal wall hernias.

While some patients with hernias may put off treatment in order to avoid surgery, this may be delaying the inevitable. Hernias never get smaller and they never go away on their own. Ultimately, most patients will elect for surgery because the pain and discomfort becomes too much to bear.

So, if you experience any of the signs or symptoms of a hernia, be sure to schedule an appointment with an experienced physician to discuss your treatment options.

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