What is an epigastric hernia?

An epigastric hernia is where fat pushes out through a weakness in the wall of your abdomen between your umbilicus (belly button) and sternum and forms a lump (see figure 1). The most common symptom is pain caused by the fat being pinched by your abdominal wall.

What are the benefits of surgery?

You should no longer have the hernia. Surgery can help to relieve pain that is caused by the hernia. You may still have pain if it is caused by another problem.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

The hernia can be left alone but pain caused by the hernia will usually continue and complications can happen. The hernia will not get better without surgery.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes about 30 minutes.

Your surgeon will make a cut over the hernia and free up the ‘hernial sac’.

If only fat is pushing through, your surgeon will either remove the fat or push it back.

If contents of your abdomen are also pushing through, they will place the contents back inside your abdomen.

Your surgeon will close the weak spot with strong stitches or a synthetic mesh (for larger hernias).

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications

  • Developing a lump
  • Injury to structures within your abdomen

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

Gradually increase how much you walk around over the first few days.

You should be able to return to work after one to two weeks, depending on the extent of surgery and your type of work.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

The hernia can come back.

Summary

An epigastric hernia is a common condition caused by a weakness in your abdominal wall between your umbilicus and sternum. If left untreated, an epigastric hernia can cause serious complications.

Acknowledgements

Author: Prof Simon Parsons DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com

 

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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