What is a hernia?
A hernia is a small lump that occurs when some of the contents of the abdomen (such as part of the intestine) pushes through a weakness in the abdominal wall. They can occur in anyone, however commonly result from a strain in the stomach area, when pressure is raised through activities including persistent coughing, lifting heavy objects or straining on the toilet.
Leaving your hernia untreated may cause it to become larger and uncomfortable. In some cases, part of the intestine can twist inside the hernia, cutting off the blood supply. This is known as a strangulated hernia and, although rare, would require emergency surgery.
What is a hernia operation?
A hernia operation is intended to repair and strengthen the abdominal wall. The intestine is pushed back into its correct place, and a synthetic mesh is often used to strengthen the weak spot.
What does a hernia operation involve?
Open hernia repairs can be undertaken under local or general anaesthetic. Laparoscopic hernia repair is usually undertaken under general anaesthetic. The procedure normally takes around 45 minutes and you may be also able to go home the same day.
There are four common types of hernia and two main types of treatment:
Inguinal hernia - groin
When a hernia occurs in the lower abdomen area it is known as an inguinal hernia. As the most common type of hernia, it accounts for over three out of every four cases.
There are two ways this type of hernia can be repaired:
- Laparoscopic (keyhole) inguinal hernia repair
Your surgeon will make two or three small cuts to your abdomen, through which a tube-like camera will be passed to enable your surgeon to view the hernia. Special surgical instruments are then used to repair the hernia and a synthetic mesh may be used to strengthen the abdominal wall.
- Open inguinal hernia repair
A single incision of around 5-10cm is made in the groin and the bulge is pushed back into place. A mesh may be used to support the area. The skin is then closed using dissolvable stitches.
Femoral hernia – lower groin
A femoral hernia also occurs in the groin area; however this type is positioned a little lower down than an inguinal hernia and is more common in women. There is a high risk of serious problems if femoral hernias are left untreated.
Femoral hernias can be repaired through the same methods as an inguinal hernia, through laparoscopic and open surgery.
Incisional hernia – resulting from a previous incision
Incisional hernias result from a weakness in the abdominal wall caused by a previous scar or surgical wound that has not healed well. They usually occur within two years of the surgery.
Incisional hernias vary in size and the treatment prescribed may also vary. Usually open surgery will be carried out, with a mesh being stitched over the weak spot for larger hernias. The incision will then be closed with stitches.
Umbilical hernias - navel
Umbilical hernias appear around the navel (belly button) and can be present from birth. As such, they are most common in children and usually heal without surgical treatment.
A hernia operation will be needed if the umbilical hernia does not go away on its own. Adults who develop this type of hernia will need treatment as it will not get better on its own.
Is hernia surgery available on the NHS?
Some types of hernia surgery are currently being restricted by the NHS in some areas of the UK and waiting lists are becoming significantly longer. Inguinal hernia operations for adults for example are sometimes being restricted to those with more serious symptoms. For these reasons many people opt for private hernia treatment.
Why should I consider having a hernia operation at a Spire hospital?
Whether you have medical insurance or are paying for your treatment yourself, with Spire Healthcare you will be seen quickly by the consultant-grade surgeon of your choice at a time that suits you. You will be treated in a premium private hospital with some of the UK's highest standards of cleanliness and infection control. What’s more, you’ll be able to recuperate in your own private room with friends and family able to visit when you wish.
To find out more about having a hernia repair operation privately or to get a guide price, simply