What is a hernia?
An inguinal hernia is a condition caused by the intestines or internal organs protruding through a gap or weakness in the abdominal (tummy) wall.
An inguinal hernia occurs in the groin and is more common in men than women. It can occur at any age but is less common in children under 18. Treatment for inguinal hernias is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures.
An inguinal hernia commonly presents as a lump in the groin. Usually, the lump disappears if the patient lies down for a period of time, but in some cases it may be obstructed and will remain visible in any position.
An inguinal hernia may also result in groin pain or discomfort, especially when it first develops. It will often appear after long episodes of constipation, straining or heavy lifting at work, and sometimes in people suffering with a chronic cough.
There are other types of hernias such as umbilical hernias and incisional hernias are also caused by a weakness in the muscles of the abdomen.
Generally speaking the most effective treatment for hernias, particularly inguinal hernias, is surgical correction. Surgery involves repairing the gap in the muscle wall, often using a nylon or plastic mesh which is strong enough to prevent recurrence of the hernia. Many operations are performed as open surgery through an incision in the groin, or just above the hernia, usually under general anaesthesia. Alternatively, a laparoscopic (keyhole) repair can be carried out, which involves smaller incisions, and usually results in a quicker recovery and less post-operative pain than open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery is recommended if a hernia has recurred after a previous repair or if it is affecting both sides of the abdomen. If hernias show any signs of strangulation, meaning the intestine is trapped in the gap in the muscle wall, then emergency surgery may be required.
In the elderly and frail, where the use of general anaesthesia may not be recommended a support belt (truss) can be used to keep the hernia in place, but this is usually awkward, cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear, and so surgery may be performed under local or spinal anaesthesia.
What will happen if a hernia is left untreated?
If a hernia is not corrected surgically, it may increase in size and become painful, and there is an increased risk of complications such as obstruction and/or strangulation.
Risks associated with surgery
Any surgical procedure involves some risks and potential complications, and the most common for hernia repair surgery include:
- There is a small risk of developing a wound infection,
- Bruising or swelling at the site of the surgical incision.
- There is a very small risk of recurrence (only about one in a hundred since the introduction of the mesh repair technique).
- There is a small risk of developing nerve entrapment syndrome due to contraction of the mesh, which can cause chronic pain and numbness in the groin that will usually improve over a few months.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Surgical repair is generally accepted as the best treatment option for hernias.
What can be expected after the operation?
Virtually all patients should be back to normal within two to four weeks. Most people feel comfortable driving within two weeks and can resume exercising to their pre-operation level within four weeks.
Why go private?
The current NHS recommendations are to offer surgical repair of hernias only if they are large or causing significant pain and disability. Small and medium sized non-symptomatic hernias may be left untreated. There are no such restrictions in the private sector.
For more information about hernia treatment and surgery at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull, West Midlands please call 0121 704 5527/5541 or complete our online enquiry form.