A hernia is a weakness or tear in the abdominal muscles that allows fatty tissue or an organ such as the intestines to protrude through the weak area. Hernias can occur at several sites on the abdominal wall. The most common site is in the groin; but hernias also occur at the umbilicus (navel) or along a surgical incision.
Each hernia is different and the symptoms can appear gradually or suddenly. Different people feel varying degrees of pain. Some of the symptoms may include:
Feelings of weakness, pressure, burning, or pain in the abdomen, groin, or scrotum
A bulge or lump in the abdomen, groin, or scrotum that is easier to see when you cough and disappears when you lie down
Pain when straining, lifting, or coughing
Inguinal hernias are more common in men than in women. They occur in a part of the abdominal wall known as the inguinal canal which is a part of the abdominal wall where a man’s testicles descend before birth. This can leave a natural defect that develops into a hernia if it doesn’t seal properly. As a result, the contents of the abdomen, such as the intestine, may protrude through the opening, creating pain and/or a bulge.
A hernia that appears in the abdomen at the site of a previous surgery is known as a ventral or incisional hernia. These hernias can appear weeks, months, or even years after surgery and can vary in size from small to very large and complex. If you think you have a ventral hernia, it is important to see your doctor because it may widen and become extremely difficult to repair. Size matters, patients with smaller hernias are more likely to have a successful repair, and have fewer complications associated with the hernia surgery. If a hernia is left untreated, it most likely will increase in size and become symptomatic. Any hernia can lead to serious, even life-threatening complications if untreated.
The recovery period depends on what type of hernia you have. Under many circumstances, you will have your surgery on an outpatient basis and be back at home the same day. You also may not be able to drive or do anything strenuous for the first week. Some patients experience minimal pain or discomfort and are back to normal in just a few days. Other patients may take longer to fully recover, especially if their normal routine involves strenuous activity.
If you think you have a hernia, please see your doctor or call our office. If surgery is required, you can have the procedure done close to home at Bristol Hospital without having to travel to a large inner city hospital.
I, along with our Chief of General Surgery, Jennifer McCallister, MD, will be hosting a free hernia education event which takes place from 5:30 – 7 p.m., on Thursday, Sept. 13, here at the Bristol Hospital Hughes Auditorium. As part of this presentation, we will be discussing numerous treatment options such as robotic and standard procedures for hiatal, inguinal and other types of hernia. To register for this free event, please visit bristolhospital.org/hernia or call 860-585-3694.
Rainer W. Bagdasarian, MD, is a member of the medical staff of the Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group and chairman of Bristol Hospital’s Department of Surgery. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bagdasarian, please call 1-833-4BHDOCS or visit bristolhospital.org