A hernia is a bulge or swelling that happens as an inner body part pokes through a weak area of muscle or tissue wall.
What is a hernia?
A hernia means something coming through. It most frequently occurs when an organ or internal tissue pokes through a hole or weakness in your abdominal muscle wall.
In many cases, people have no or very few hernia symptoms. You may notice a swelling or lump in your stomach area or groin. Often you have no hernia pain.
If your hernia causes sudden pain and especially if it can’t be pushed back in, you should seek urgent medical care. It may mean that your hernia is trapped or tightly pinched where it pokes through the muscle wall (obstruction) and in extreme cases it may cut off the blood supply to your intestines and tissues in your abdomen (strangulation).
A hernia is not usually a serious condition but it will not go away without hernia treatment known as a hernia repair.
What does a hernia feel like?
A hernia will typically feel like a lump under your skin in your groin or stomach area. This is where the bulging tissue or organ is pushing through a weak area in your abdominal wall. You can push the lump back in or it disappears when you lie down. Coughing, lifting heavy objects, straining and standing up may make your lump appear. Some people do not feel a lump and have no symptoms.
A hernia can be present at birth or it can develop if you have a weakness in your muscle or surrounding tissue wall. Hernias are caused by organs, such as your intestines, pushing through a weak part of your muscle wall. Your groin is the most common area for a hernia to appear as it pushes through your abdominal wall. Hernia causes include activities and medical issues that put pressure on your muscle wall, such as:
- Persistent bouts of coughing
- Chronic sneezing
- Heavy lifting
- Straining on the toilet for urination and due to constipation
- Poor nutrition and /or being overweight or obesity
- A sharp blow to your abdomen
- Physical exertion
- Cystic fibrosis
- Enlarged prostate
- Abdominal fluid
- Peritoneal dialysis
- Undescended testicles
- Complication of abdominal surgery (incisional hernia)
Hernias are also more likely to occur as you age, if you have a family history of hernias, if you have had a hernia before and are more common in men than in women.
How do you get a hernia?
You get a hernia when tissue or an organ, such as your intestine, pushes or bulges through a weak spot in your muscle wall. This bulging tissue creates a lump that tends to be painful or uncomfortable when you cough or strain.
What does the hernia surgery involve?
Hernia repair surgery is the world’s most common surgical procedure. The surgery can help to relieve pain, return the hernia abdominal organs to their correct place and, strengthen the weak muscle area.
A hernia operation usually takes around an hour as a day case procedure. It can be performed by:
• Open surgery – under local or general anaesthetic, an incision usually around 2.5 to 3 inches is made to your skin near your hernia and your surgeon will push your hernia back into your abdomen. The incision is then either stitched closed or much more commonly a mesh is placed over the hole and fixed using fine stitches. The mesh acts like a scaffold and your own tissue will grow through the mesh to reinforce the weakened area without putting tension on the surrounding tissues.
• Keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery – under general anaesthetic, several smaller incisions are made to allow your surgeon to use a less invasive technique using various special instruments including a tiny telescopic camera to repair your hernia. A mesh may then be used to strengthen your abdominal wall.
If hernia surgery is recommended, your surgeon will advise on the most appropriate type of surgery based on the location and severity of your hernia.
Are there different types of abdominal hernia?
Most hernias are found in the abdomen. Areas of weakness in the abdominal wall where hernias are commonly found include the groin, upper stomach, belly button and, where you have a surgical scar.
The most frequently seen types of hernia include:
• Inguinal hernias – the most common hernia, seen more in men, causes a bulge in your groin. The inguinal hernia appears through your inguinal canal, a narrow passage that blood vessels pass through in your abdominal wall and, may reach your scrotum.
• Femoral hernias – also a bulge in your groin, relatively uncommon and seen more in women. The femoral hernia happens at the hole in your abdominal wall where the femoral artery and vein pass from the abdomen into your leg.
• Umbilical/periumbilical hernias – occur at the umbilicus, a natural weakness in your abdominal wall, when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel pokes through your abdomen near your naval.
• Incisional hernia – occurs through a scar from past abdominal surgery as tissue pokes through the weak healed site in your abdominal wall.
• Hiatal Hernia - when the upper part of your stomach protrudes up into your chest through a small opening (hiatus) in the muscle that separates the two areas, called your diaphragm.
• Double Hernia- A double hernia, also called a bilateral inguinal hernia, is when you have two hernias in your groin on both sides of your body.
What complication can happen after the hernia surgery?
It is a routine procedure, but as with all surgeries there are risks of complications. These may vary depending upon the exact hernia operation you have and your health. Your surgeon will discuss these with you in detail.
Often the greatest complication risk is a reoccurrence of the hernia. Other hernia surgery side effects include: build-up of seroma or a fluid-filled sac under the surface of the skin, inability or difficulty urinating, organ or tissue damage, wound infection and, rejection of the mesh.
What is the cost of the hernia surgery?
If you decide to pay for your treatment, Ramsay offer an all-inclusive Total Care package, where a single one-off payment at a pre-agreed price, delivering direct access to all the treatment you need for complete reassurance. You can also spread the cost of your treatment with finance options available.
A hernia surgery may be covered by your medical insurance policy. We advise you to check directly with your insurance provider and get written confirmation before commencing treatment.
How soon will I recover after the hernia surgery?
Recovery time after hernia surgery is usually two to three weeks. Most patients will return to normal daily activities and go back to work within a week. You should not do any heavy lifting for at least six weeks. Your surgeon will talk to you about what you can and cannot do for your specific hernia operation.
You’ll have sixty days of post discharge outpatient care commencing the day you leave a Ramsay Hospital including a follow up with your surgeon to check on your hernia as part of your aftercare package.
Hernia surgery with Ramsay Health Care
Across the Ramsay Health Care hospitals, we have performed many successful hernia repairs. Our expert consultants offer rapid access to hernia treatment and routinely perform hernia surgery at your local Ramsay hospital.
Contact us now to book your appointment.