What is an inguinal hernia?

Weak spots can develop in the layer of muscle in your abdominal wall, resulting in the contents of your abdomen pushing through. This produces a lump called a hernia (see figure 1).

An inguinal hernia happens at the inguinal canal. This is a narrow passage in which blood vessels supplying your testicle pass through your abdominal wall.

A hernia can be dangerous because your intestines or other structures within your abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia).

What are the benefits of surgery?

You should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent the serious complications that a hernia can cause.

Are there any alternatives to an open inguinal hernia repair?

Inguinal hernias can be repaired using keyhole surgery.

You can sometimes control the hernia with a truss (padded support belt) or simply leave it alone. It will not get better without surgery.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes about 45 minutes.

Your surgeon will make a cut on your groin and remove the ‘hernial sac’.

They will strengthen the muscle layer with stitches, usually inserting a synthetic mesh to cover the weak spot, and close your skin.

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 under your wound
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Injury to structures that come from your abdomen and are within the hernia
  • Temporary weakness of your leg
  • Continued discomfort or pain in your groin
  • Injury to nerves
  • Damage to the blood supply of your testicle

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day. Increase how much you walk around over the first few days.

You should be able to return to work after two to four 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 inguinal hernia is a common condition caused by a weakness in your abdominal wall, near the inguinal canal. If left untreated, an inguinal 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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