A hernia is a defect or weakness in the abdominal wall that usually allows the contents of the abdomen to bulge outward. This bulge may become more noticeable while standing or during exertions such as coughing, sneezing, straining and lifting.
The most common hernias develop in the inguinal, or groin, area, but they may also occur on the abdomen or on your sides.
Although a hernia bulge may appear suddenly, hernias often take years to develop. They grow larger as pressure inside the body presses the intestines and other tissues outward and through the weak area.
With time, these tissues can bulge beneath the skin of the abdomen or into the groin, thigh, scrotum or labia. In some cases, a loop of intestine may become tightly trapped by muscle tissue. This can cause severe pain and requires immediate treatment.
The natural course of hernias is to slowly enlarge and worsen over time—and surgery is the only way to repair a hernia. Your doctor may prescribe a truss or binder to alleviate some of your symptoms, but those treatments will not solve the problem.
If you have a hernia, your doctor is likely to recommend surgery even if you don’t have any symptoms. This is because hernias have the potential for strangulation, a serious problem that occurs when part of your intestine gets trapped inside the hernia. If strangulation occurs, you'll need emergency surgery to prevent life-threatening complications such as gangrene.
Laparoscopic surgery offers tremendous benefits to patients over conventional open surgery, including:
- Smaller incisions
- Less blood loss
- Minimized scarring
- Decreased post-surgical pain
- Lowered risk of infection
- Faster recovery
Not all patients are eligible for a laparoscopic approach. If you have a history of prior abdominal surgery, bleeding problems or if you’re overweight or obese, your doctor may recommend an open procedure.
Post-operative discomfort is usually mild to moderate. You may need pain medication immediately following surgery. Most patients are able to return to their usual activities (showering, driving, walking up stairs, lifting, work and sex) within a short period of time.