What is a hernia?
A hernia occurs when an organ in the body pushes through the muscle or tissue that surrounds it. Hernias are most often found in the abdomen and groin.
Hernias are caused by any condition where there is additional strain put on the abdominal wall. This can include obesity, heavy lifting over a long period of time, or a chronic cough. A family history of hernias may also put you at an increased risk of developing one.
There are often few symptoms associated with hernias, but sometimes you may notice a lump where the hernia is. In many cases, the lump will disappear when you lie down, and may appear again when you cough or sneeze.
Hernias are not life-threatening, but they may require surgery to prevent them getting worse, as severe herniations can lead to additional complications.
When should I see a specialist for hernia surgery?
If you think you have a hernia, it is recommended that you see a doctor. You may then be referred for surgery, but this will depend on a number of factors which include:
The type of hernia – some types of hernia are more likely to cause additional complications such as bowel obstruction.
The content of your hernia – Sometimes hernias can move through the abdominal wall and carry with it a part of the bowel, muscle, or tissue. This can result in strangulation or obstruction of the bowel which can lead to complications.
Your specific symptoms – if your symptoms are severe enough to have an impact on your daily life, surgery is likely to be recommended to treat your hernia.Enquire with our general surgeons.
Did you know?
Around 75% of abdominal hernias are inguinal hernias, which are located in the groin area.¹
What are the risks of hernia surgery?
Like any surgery, hernia surgery carries some risk. Some short-term complications can include:
● Damage to surrounding organs and blood vessels
Longer-term problems may include:
● Recurrence – hernias have about a 1 in 200 chance of recurring.
● Pain and discomfort – sometimes you can have pain up to 3 months after surgery. It is unclear why this may occur, but some research indicates that it may be related to nerve damage in smaller hernias.
● Mesh infection – this is rare, but may occur in some cases of hernia surgery. If the infection persists despite treatment, it may need to be removed and replaced.
How do I prepare for hernia surgery?
If you have been scheduled for hernia surgery, there will usually be some preparation involved before the day of your operation. This may vary depending on the type of surgery you are having, but you can usually expect the following:
You may need to stop taking certain medications, as some might increase your risk of complications. Talk to your surgeon or anaesthesiologist about any medication you’re taking.
You will usually be expected to stop eating and drinking a few hours, or even a day, before surgery. Your surgeon will advise you on the specifics of this.
If your procedure requires a hospital stay, make sure to bring anything you will need during that time.
What can I expect during hernia surgery?
Depending on the type of surgery, you will be given either a local anaesthetic or a spinal anaesthetic. This means you will be awake during the procedure but you won’t feel any pain. In some cases, a general anaesthetic may be used.
Once the surgeon has made the incision, the bowel, or tissue, is pushed back into the abdomen. A mesh is then placed over the hernia to stop it pushing through again.
When the mesh is in place, your skin is then closed with stitches.
What happens after my hernia surgery?
Most people who have hernia surgery are able to go home the same day. You should also be able to return to normal daily duties 1 or 2 weeks after surgery.
You may experience some pain following your surgery, and your general surgeon can prescribe painkillers to help you feel more comfortable.
It is important to follow the instructions given to you for wound care at home. This will help reduce your risk of infection.
When going to the toilet, straining because of constipation can cause pain around your wound. You can avoid constipation by drinking lots of fluids, and eating enough fruit, vegetables, and high-fibre foods such as brown rice or wholemeal bread.Request an appointment with a general surgeon today.
 Jenkins, J. and O’Dwyer, P. (2008). Inguinal hernias. BMJ, [online] 336(7638), pp.269-272.