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Frequently Asked Questions – Hernia’s

What is a hernia?

A hernia (or “rupture”) is a weakness or opening (defect) in the wall of the abdomen. This opening allows the contents of the abdomen to push outward causing a bulging, which is often seen against the skin. This bulge is the hernia. This weakness may be present at birth or it can be caused by the wear and tear of daily living. Although men are more likely to have hernias, they also occur in women and children. In fact, hernias are so common that people of any age can get them – even infants. Most hernias aren’t life threatening, but treatment can help eliminate discomfort and prevent complications. It is estimated that about 10% of the population develops some type of hernia during life. More than a half million hernia operations are performed in the United States each year.
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What is a sports hernia?

A sports hernia is a weakening of the muscles and tendons in a thin portion of the lower abdominal wall, resulting in groin pain that tends to intensify with physical activity. It is common in recreational and competitive athletes, both male and female, as well as workers with physically demanding jobs.
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What are the signs and symptoms of a hernia?

Symptoms of a hernia include a bulge or swelling in the abdomen or groin area, which can also cause discomfort or pain. Your symptoms depend on the size and location of your hernia. Common symptoms include:

  • A bulge in the groin, abdomen, thigh, or genitals. The bulge may get bigger when you stand and go away when you lie down.
  • Discomfort or pain that is worse at the end of the day or after standing for long periods.
  • Pain during lifting, coughing, sneezing, or physical activities.
  • A feeling of weakness or pressure in the groin.
  • Discomfort or pain during urination or bowel movements.
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    Why does a hernia occur?

    Usually, there is no obvious cause of a hernia. The wall of the abdomen has several functions, and one is to provide support to the internal organs which push outward and create pressure against the abdominal wall. There are several natural weaknesses in this wall. The opening of a gap in tissue in these areas can occur on its own or it can happen if the tissue gets stretched. Activities, including the following, can put increased pressure on the abdominal wall and may cause a hernia:

  • Straining to have a bowel movement
  • Chronic coughing
  • Straining to urinate
  • Heavy lifting
  • However, a hernia can also be caused by a sneeze.
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    What are the risk factors in not repairing a hernia?

    If a hernia is not repaired, it may become trapped (incarcerated). When this happens, there is a danger that part of the intestine may become caught in the hernia cutting off blood supply to the area (strangulated). A strangulated hernia requires emergency surgery.
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    When should I call my doctor?

    When you notice any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, contact your doctor. However, not all lumps or swellings located in the abdomen or groin are hernias. It is important that the condition is properly diagnosed since it could be a groin strain or torn muscle.
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    Do hernias get better on their own?

    A hernia does not heal on its own and there is no medical treatment to cure it. Over time, the hernia becomes worse – sometimes quickly. In general, hernias that are at risk for complications, that cause pain, or that limit activity should be repaired. Your CT Hernia Center surgeon can guide you through your options.
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    How are hernias repaired?

    The only way to stop a hernia from getting worse is to repair it surgically. If it is not repaired, there is a risk that emergency surgery at a later date may be needed. Surgical repair can be performed in open fashion, laparoscopically, or robotically. All but the smallest hernias generally require mesh to complete or reinforce repair. Your CT Hernia Center surgeon can guide you through your options.
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    Are there different types of hernias or are they all the same?

    There are different types of hernias. The most common ones are Inguinal (Groin) Hernia, Umbilical Hernia, Ventral Hernia and Femoral Hernia.
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    What would happen if I don’t get my hernia repaired?

  • Strangulation: This occurs when the blood supply to the bowel becomes severely restricted. As a result, the bowel tissue becomes damaged because of a lack of oxygen and nutrients. This condition is called ischemia, which can lead to part of the bowel dying (necrosis).
  • Obstruction: When a portion of the bowel sticks out through the wall of the abdomen, this creates a hernia. Sometimes a partial or complete blockage of the bowel occurs. Then contents of the bowel cannot pass through. This results in cramps, and later on vomiting and the inability to defecate (eliminate solid waste material from the body).
  • Dysfunction: This is another complication that happens when the organ that is herniated or surrounding organs, start to malfunction. This can cause other symptoms like heartburn or back pain.
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    I’ve read that mesh is used to help repair a hernia. What is it and how does it work?

    Mesh is a surgically designed, sterile woven material. There are many types of mesh products available, but surgeons typically use a sterile, woven material made from a synthetic plastic like polypropylene or some other such synthetic material. The mesh can be in the form of a patch that goes under or over the weakness, or it can be in the form of a plug that goes inside the hole. Mesh is very sturdy and strong, yet extremely thin. It is also soft and flexible to allow it to easily conform to body’s movement, position, and size. Mesh acts as “scaffolding” or like a bridge for new growth of a patient’s own tissue, which eventually incorporates the mesh into the surrounding area. The mesh decreases the tension on the weakened area, reducing the risk that a hernia will recur. Surgeons select the specific mesh that will be most effective for the particular operation and best suited to the patient’s condition. Your CT Hernia Center surgeon will select the appropriate mesh for your individual circumstance.
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    What types of surgery are used to repair a hernia?

    It is estimated that approximately 600,000 hernia repair operations are performed annually in the United States. There are two types of surgical approaches that can be used in hernia repair operations – “open” and “laparoscopic”.
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    Is laparoscopic repair for everyone?

    Options for the type of surgical approach should be reviewed your CT Hernia Center surgeon. Based on a thorough examination along with your medical history, your CT Hernia Center surgeon can help you decide whether laparoscopic hernia repair is right for you. The procedure may not be best for some patients who have had previous abdominal surgery or have underlying medical conditions.
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