Approximately 600,000 hernia repair operations are performed annually in the United States. Many are performed by the conventional “open” method. Some hernia repairs are performed using a small telescope known as a laparoscope. If your surgeon has recommended a laparoscopic repair, this brochure can help you understand what a hernia is and about the treatment.
What is a hernia?
A hernia occurs when the inside layers of the abdominal muscle have weakened, resulting in a bulge or 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 small balloon-like sac. This can allow a loop of intestine or abdominal tissue to push into the sac. The hernia can cause severe pain and other potentially serious problems that could require emergency surgery.
- Both men and women can get a hernia.
- You may be born with a hernia (congenital) or develop one over time.
- A hernia does not get better over time, nor will it go away by itself.
How do I know if I have a hernia?
The common areas where hernias occur are in the groin (inguinal), belly button (umbilical), and the site of a previous operation (incisional).
- It is usually easy to recognize a hernia. You may notice a bulge under the skin. You may feel pain when you lift heavy objects, cough, strain during urination or bowel movements, or during prolonged standing or sitting.
- The pain may be sharp and immediate or a dull ache that gets worse toward the end of the day.
- Severe, continuous pain, redness, and tenderness are signs that the hernia may be entrapped or strangulated. These symptoms are cause for concern and immediate contact of your physician or surgeon.
What is the cause of a hernia?
The wall of the abdomen has natural areas of potential weakness. Hernias can develop at these or other areas due to heavy strain on the abdominal wall, aging, injury, an old incision or a weakness present from birth. Anyone can develop a hernia at any age. Most hernias in children are congenital. In adults, a natural weakness or strain from heavy lifting, persistent coughing, difficulty with bowel movements or urination can cause the abdominal wall to weaken or separate.