Hernia repair is a very common surgical procedure. A hernia occurs when an internal organ or fatty tissue pushes through a weakness in the surrounding tissue wall, causing a lump. There are many types of hernia, outlined below, but they are most commonly found in the abdomen and groin areas.
The most common symptoms are pain, swelling and discomfort at the site of the hernia. Hernias aren’t usually life threatening but should always be examined by your GP immediately because in some cases your intestines or other structures can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off, causing a strangulated hernia.
In most cases a hernia will simply contain fatty tissue. Often, they can be pushed in and may disappear when lying down but straining or coughing can make the lump appear again. If your hernia is growing larger or causing pain, surgery may be recommended.
Men and women can have hernias but they are more common in men and anyone undertaking strenuous sport, particularly weight lifting. Anyone who has had previous surgery is more likely to develop a hernia.
Types of Hernia
An inguinal hernia is the result of fatty tissue or a bit of your bowel pushing through and into your groin at the top of the inner thigh. This is the most common form of hernia, particularly for men. This type of hernia is associated with ageing and repeated strain on the abdomen.
A femoral hernia is the result of fatty tissue or a bit of your bowel pushing through and into your groin at the top of the inner thigh. They are far less common than the inguinal form and affect more women than men. Again, this type of hernia is associated with ageing and repeated strain on the abdomen. Your doctor will tell you whether you have an inguinal or a femoral hernia.
This type of hernia is the result of fatty tissue or a bit of your bowel pushing through the abdomen at (umbilical) or near (paraumbilical) your belly button. Both forms are associated with babies. They occur if the opening in the abdomen through which the umbilical cord passes does not seal properly after birth. However, this type of hernia can occur in adults as a result of repeated strain on the abdomen.
An epigastric hernia is the result of fatty tissue pushing through your abdomen in the area between your belly button and the lower part of your breastbone. Epigastric hernias can occur in infants, children, and adults.
A hiatal hernia occurs when an individual’s stomach protrudes up through a weak point in the diaphragm; the muscle that separates the lungs from the abdominal organs and helps you breathe by contracting and drawing air into the lungs. This type of hernia is more common in people aged over 50. Symptoms include heartburn and chest pain. If a child develops a hiatal hernia, it is generally caused by a congenital birth defect.
Incisional hernias can occur following stomach surgery that involves an incision down the middle of the stomach. If the surgical wound did not heal completely, the patient is more susceptible to developing this type of hernia. Another term used for an incisional hernia is a ventral hernia, although not all ventral hernias are incisional hernias.
A ventral hernia occurs when the tissue protrudes through an opening in the muscles of the abdomen. The size of the hernia is usually larger when you are standing, compared to when you are lying down. Ventral hernias are usually acquired at some point during your lifetime rather than at birth. Common causes include obesity, strenuous activity and pregnancy. They can also occur at the site of a surgical wound and can happen due to surgical scarring or weakness of the abdominal muscles at the surgical site.
A hernia can usually be diagnosed by physical examination. If you have a hernia in your abdominal wall your consultant will be able to determine the type of abdominal wall hernia by carefully feeling for the defect and its location. If you have a hernia in the groin area, an ultrasound or CT scan may be required to confirm the type of hernia. A hiatal hernia can be confirmed with a gastroscopy.
Following diagnosis, your consultant will advise if surgery is appropriate. This is dependent on:
- type of hernia, some are more likely to become strangulated, or cause bowel obstruction
- content of the hernia, if the hernia contains a part of your bowel, muscle or other tissue, there may be a risk of strangulation or obstruction
- severity of pain and discomfort
- impact on your day-to-day living
- your general health
Hernia Repair Surgery
There are three types of surgery for hernia repair:
Open surgery, where an incision is made close to the site of the hernia to enable your surgeon to push the hernia back into position and repair the weakened area using stitches or a piece of reinforcing synthetic mesh.
Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery, where small incisions are made to allow you surgeon to insert a thin, lighted scope called a laparoscope through one incision and tools to repair the hernia through the other incisions.
Laparoscopic surgery is generally a more attractive option for the patient, as there is less damage to surrounding tissue, reduced scarring and recovery times are much faster. However, not all hernias are suitable for laparoscopic surgery.
Abdominal wall reconstruction, where more complex hernias such as incisional hernias require greater abdominal wall reinforcement with stitching or synthetic mesh. As with hernia repair surgery, abdominal wall reconstruction can be performed as a traditional open surgery or laparoscopically.
Recovery following Hernia Repair Surgery
It is usually possible to return home on the day of your surgery. You will need someone to drive you and you should have someone with you for at least 24 hours following a general anaesthetic.
You will need to completely rest for the first couple of days after surgery to heal. After a couple of days, you may feel ready to do light tasks around the home and go for a walk.
After 2 weeks, you should be able to return to light exercise such as jogging, cycling and swimming.
You should be able to return to work 1-2 weeks following surgery, although if your job is physically demanding you will need to take a longer time off.
Complete recovery from hernia repair surgery will take 4-6 weeks. Recovery is generally faster with laparoscopic surgery, rather than open surgery. However, contact sports and all forms of lifting should be avoided until two months has passed to ensure that the tissues have healed properly and minimise the chance of recurrence.
At One Hatfield Hospital we can book you in to see a Consultant General Surgeon, usually within 48 hours, for an initial consultation.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Hernia Repair treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at either the One Ashford Hospital or One Hatfield Hospital.
Why One Healthcare
- Modern purpose-built hospital opened in March 2016 (Ashford) December 2017 (Hatfield)
- Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, Xray and Ultrasound
- Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little or no waiting time
- ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
- Freshly prepared food
- Calm, dignified experience