Hernia repair: key things you need to know before going into surgery
Hernias are characterized by a section of an organ or fat that protrudes out through a region of muscle that has a weakness or opening in the surrounding tissue wall. While this injury is most commonly found in the abdomen, they can happen in the groin and upper thigh as well. While the condition is not life threatening or an emergency, they will not spontaneously heal and usually surgery is the only hernia repair option. If left untreated, patients can experience serious and potentially life-threatening complications. A hernia repair operation is usually performed to correct this issue. There are some things you should know to prepare for a hernia repair surgical operation.
What causes a hernia?
A weak area of muscle tissue combined with repeated or extreme pressure can cause this problem. This pressure can come from a variety of sources including improperly lifting heavy materials, bowel issues like constipation and diarrhea, and chronic or severe sneezing or coughing.
A few types are also caused by muscle weakness that is present from birth, but more often these injuries occur later in adult life. Poor health conditions like smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and obesity increase the risks because the muscles of the abdomen are not as strong as in the case of a healthy person.
Types of hernias
● Inguinal hernia
This is by far the most common type and it occurs when a section of the intestine bulges through a weak spot in the abdomen in the groin region. In men, this area of the abdomen helps to hold up the testicles, and in women, it holds the uterus in position. Over 70 percent of hernias operated on are inguinal, and most of those are found in men. Because of how the testicles are formed at birth, there is likely to be a weak spot in this region.
● Incisional hernia
When a person undergoes abdominal surgery, an artificial weak spot is created. The incision the doctors create can allow a part of the intestine to protrude through the scar tissue. There is a very low risk of this complication occurring in abdominal procedures, less than ten percent. However, if it happens once, this kind of hernia may recur.
● Umbilical hernia
This injury occurs most often in very small children, babies that are six months old or younger when a portion of the intestines pushes through the abdominal cavity near the belly button. Because these patients are so young, it can be hard to know when a child develops this condition. You may notice a bulge near their belly button when they are fussy and crying. Often the problem goes away on its own as the child grows and the muscles of the abdomen become stronger, but parents should inform their pediatrician. If it has not resolved itself by the time the child is one year old, a hernia repair surgical intervention may be needed.
● Femoral hernia
The pathway where the femoral artery and major nerves leave the abdominal cavity is another site where this condition may occur. These femoral hernias are formed when intestinal tissue bulges through this small opening and surrounding muscle that can be seen on the inside of the thigh. This dangerous type is commonly seen in women. It is dangerous because there is a high probability that the intestines will not be able to be returned to its normal position. The herniated tissue can also become strangulated, and if that happens, it must be surgically removed.
● Hiatal hernia
When a part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm up into the chest cavity, it is called a hiatal hernia. The diaphragm is a very strong muscle that separates the abdominal and the chest cavities. These are most common in older patients, those over 50. This injury most often causes the patient to suffer from gastrointestinal reflux, which is a very painful condition that causes stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.
● Obturator hernia
This type occurs mostly in women is very rare. It can be difficult to diagnose because there will not be a bulge visible to the naked eye, like some of the other types. These patients will experience nausea and vomiting and symptoms that mimic a bowel obstruction. In this injury, the intestines are poking through an opening in the pelvic bone.
● Epigastric hernia
This type of injury is caused by fat pushing through the abdominal cavity instead of intestines. They are typically not painful, but they must be operated on to push the fatty tissue back inside the muscle where it belongs.
Surgical hernia repair techniques
Hernias are treated with open or laparoscopic surgery. In an open hernia repair, an incision is made in the skin directly above the protrusion. Laparoscopic hernia repair employs minimally invasive cameras and equipment inserted via a tiny incision.
Herniotomy is a technique in which the hernia sac is removed without repairing the inguinal canal. Sac removal can also be combined with a reinforcement of the posterior inguinal canal using the patient’s tissue or a heterogeneous material like prolene. Surgeons also use sterile, woven, synthetic materials such as mesh in the form of a patch which goes over or under the weakness, or in the form of a plug that can block the protrusion.
An individual should be able to return to work after one to two weeks; however, this period is longer for manual workers due to the strain on the body. Most people recover completely from an inguinal hernia repair within six weeks. The healing process is enhanced by doing gentle exercises like walking, and patients are advised to avoid doing strenuous activities, like weight lifting, during the recovery period.
Are there non-surgical options?
There are a few non-surgical options for dealing with this problem. Corsets, compression dressings, and binders can be used to keep the protruding tissue in place. However, these are just temporary solutions and the injury will not heal without surgical hernia repair.
Hernias are associated with a significant number of health complications. There may be an obstruction where a section of the bowel gets trapped and can result in stomach pains, vomiting, and nausea. A section of the bowel becomes wrapped, cutting off its blood supply. This complication requires emergency surgery to remove the trapped tissue and restore blood flow.
Complications can also arise after the surgical intervention. A build-up of blood or fluid in the space left by the hernia, for example. Pain or numbness is the groin area due to a damaged, or trapped nerve is also a risk. Men can experience swelling and bruising of the testicles or at the penile base. In some cases, surgery can damage the blood supply to the testicles or vas deferens.
The type of hernia repair done depends on the patient’s needs and the surgeon’s experience. The average cost for a routine surgery ranges from $4000-$6000. Although this can be quite expensive, undergoing the surgery is cheaper than risking it without one. Check with your insurance provider to see if the procedure is covered under your plan. Even when surgery is successful, in some cases the problem may recur. It is crucial that you take note of any symptoms and see your doctor immediately if you have any concerns.
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