There are many types of hernias, and they are extrememly common. A hernia is simply a hole or defect in the abdominal wall. This allows contents that belong inside the abdomen to protrude out through the defect. This is what causes a lump, which is one of the main symptoms of a hernia. The most common types of hernias are in the groin area or around the “belly button” (umbilical hernia). Other types can occur in sites where we have
had prior surgeries (incisional) or elsewhere on the abdominal wall. These are all classified as "ventral" hernias. (Ventral is the medical term for 'on the front of the body"). During your visit with one of our surgeons, the doctor will ask you questions about when you first had symptoms such as a lump or pain, if you have had prior surgery, and other questions about your medical history. The doctor will examine you and your hernia. Only then can you and the surgeon begin to plan for surgically repairing your hernia. No medications, exercise plans, diet or other non-surgical treatments can fix a hernia.
Most hernia repairs involve 3 steps: returning anything that is protruding back to its original location, repairing the defect, and reinforcing this repair with mesh. We know for a fact that using mesh lowers the risk of the hernia coming back. Mesh products have gotten a bad reputation from lawyer commercials on TV. We have been repairing hernias with mesh for over 30 years with excellent results. There are many types and brands of mesh, each with different properties for use in specific types of hernias and specific circumstances. For our typical inguinal and umbilical hernia repairs, we only use fully approved, well-tested mesh, which we have been using for many years with excellent results. We also know that despite excellent technique and good healing, statistics tell us that about 2% of hernia repairs will recur. During your visit, we will also have a discussion about open hernia repair and laparoscopic or robotic hernia repair. We have extensive experience with all of these methods, and we will discuss our recommendations geared toward your specific needs.
Most hernia repairs can be scheduled electively and do not require an emergency procedure. One exception to this is the "strangulated" hernia. This often is a sudden dramatic onset of symptoms: there may be exquisite tenderness, a rock hard mass, redness of the skin overlying the mass, vomiting, or fever. This is a surgical emergency and you should contact your doctor immediately. Fortunately, this presentation is relatively rare. The vast majority of hernias are not strangulated, and are repaired on a planned, elective, outpatient basis.
Some larger hernias of the abdominal wall, such as incisional hernias, recurrent hernias, and patients with multiple hernias may require a more complex repair. Often the surgeon will recommend imaging such as a CT scan to help define the anatomy of the hernia and to plan the best way to repair it. Your surgeon will discuss all of these details with you at the time of your visit.