Approximately 350,000-500,000 ventral hernia repairs are performed each year in the United States. Many are performed by the conventional “open” method. Some are performed laparoscopically. If your surgeon has recommended a laparoscopic repair, this brochure can help you understand what a hernia is and more about the treatment.
Laparoscopic ventral hernia repair is a technique to fix tears or openings in the abdominal wall using small incisions, laparoscopes (small telescopes inserted into the abdomen) and a patch (screen or mesh) to reinforce the abdominal wall. It may offer a quicker return to work and normal activities with decreased pain for some patients.
What is a Ventral Hernia?
- When a ventral hernia occurs, it usually arises in the abdominal wall where a previous surgical incision was made. In this area the abdominal muscles have weakened; this results in a bulge or a tear. In the same way that an inner tube pushes through a damaged tire, the inner lining of the abdomen pushes through the weakened area of the abdominal wall to form a balloon-like sac. This can allow a loop of intestines or other abdominal contents to push into the sac. If the abdominal contents get stuck within the sac, they can become trapped or “incarcerated.” This could lead to potentially serious problems that might require emergency surgery.
- Other sites that ventral hernias can develop are the belly button (umbilicus) or any other area of the abdominal wall.
- A hernia does not get better over time, nor will it go away by itself.
How Do I Know If I Have a Ventral Hernia?
- A hernia is usually recognized as a bulge under your skin. Occasionally, it causes no discomfort at all, but you may feel pain when you lift heavy objects, cough, strain during urination or bowel movements or with prolonged standing or sitting.
- The discomfort may be sharp or a dull ache that gets worse towards the end of the day. Any continuous or severe discomfort, redness, nausea or vomiting associated with the bulge are signs that the hernia may be entrapped or strangulated. These symptoms are cause for concern and immediate contact of your physician or surgeon is recommended.
What Causes a Ventral Hernia?
- An incision in your abdominal wall will always be an area of potential weakness. Hernias can develop at these sites due to heavy straining, aging, obesity, injury or following an infection at that site following surgery. They can occur immediately following surgery or may not become apparent for years later following the procedure.
- Anyone can get a hernia at any age. They are more common as we get older. Certain activities may increase the likelihood of a hernia including persistent coughing, difficulty with bowel movements or urination, or frequent need for straining.
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