What is a hernia?
A hernia is an abnormal protrusion of tissue such as intestines through a weakened section of abdominal wall.
Types of hernia
There are several types of hernias based on the location in the body, such as umbilical, epigastric, inguinal and femoral.
Symptoms that may indicate a hernia:
Bulges, lumps or swelling
Discomfort in the area of a hernia. The pain usually reflects the abdominal contents getting caught or pinched in the hernia. Sometimes pain can occur in areas where the hernia is not present, this is due to the nerves being irritated and causing referred pain. Activities including lifting heavy objects, standing for extended period of times and straining the abdominal muscles may exacerbate pain.
When the contents (i.e. bowel or fat) of a hernia are trapped and not able to be reduced, the blood supplying the contents is impaired causing pain and swelling. This results in continuous pain and an irreducible lump. This requires emergency attention.
For patients that are asymptomatic or the have health issues that make surgery high risk.
The most common treatment is laparoscopic (key hole) surgical repair with mesh. This is performed using small incisions in the abdominal wall and the use of a camera and instruments through the incisions to perform the repair. The mesh reinforces to affected area to reduce the chance of a recurrent hernia. The advantage of a laparoscopic repair includes less tissue trauma and inflammation, less recurrent hernia risk and shorter recovery.
Infrequently hernias will require an open repair approach. This is performed through a incision extending from the skin to the muscle in order to reach the hernia base. The hernia content is then reduced through the hole and the hole closed. A mesh may then be used to reinforce the repair.
To learn more about the hernia types, click the links beside this paragraph.