Hernias: frequently asked questions

28 February 2017

Although a few people may be born with hernias, they usually develop in later life. A hernia is a lump that occurs when some of the contents of the abdomen push through a weakness in the abdominal wall, causing a visible protrusion. Often the protrusion goes away (reduces) on lying down. Small hernias without symptoms may not need treatment but many become larger and uncomfortable and surgical repair is needed. Part of the intestine can get twisted inside the hernia, cutting off the blood supply (strangulation). This is uncommon but would need emergency surgery.

The aim of an operation to repair a hernia is to put the bulge back into place and to repair the abdominal wall to stop it protruding again in the future. The procedures used during your operation will depend on the type of hernia you have.

Inguinal hernia is a very common type of hernia occurring in the groin, particularly in men. Sometimes inguinal hernias occur in both groins (bilateral inguinal hernias). Two methods of repair are:

  • Laparoscopic (keyhole) inguinal hernia repair
  • Open inguinal hernia repair

Each method has advantages and disadvantages depending on such factors as the size of the hernia or hernias, whether previous repair has been performed, your general fitness and your situation / preferences. Your surgeon will discuss this with you and advise you.

 One of our consultant general surgeons, Mr Martin Brett, answers some questions that you may have after hernia surgery.

How long does it take to recover from my hernia operation?

It depends on the type and size of the hernia and the technique used for repair (e.g. open or "keyhole"). However, the same general principles apply. Recovery is a gradual process starting as soon as the operation is complete. General anaesthesia can temporarily affect your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you should not drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 48 hours after the procedure.

Most evidence suggests that resuming gentle activity as soon as possible is beneficial. Take painkillers (analgesics) as advised by the hospital. Usually taking regular analgesia for the first few days to prevent pain, rather than treat pain once present, will make it easier to mobilise. Damage will not occur if mild pain is present during exercise but if the pain is more severe I suggest reducing activity level for two to three days then trying the same activity again. This will allow a steady increase in activity as healing takes place. In most cases full activity can be resumed by four weeks. The length of time you need to take off work depends on what you do, but most occupations can be resumed within four weeks. Follow your surgeon’s advice about returning to work.

How soon after an operation on my hernia can I drive?

If you are in any doubt about driving, please contact your motor insurer and check whether they have any fixed rules or exclusions relating to insurance cover after an operation. Recovery depends both on the type of operation and on the previous health and constitution of the individual. In the majority of cases the physical act of driving will not damage the operation but discomfort and anxiety could reduce concentration and reaction speed increasing the risk of an accident.  You should not drive until you are confident you can perform an emergency stop without discomfort.

After checking with your insurer I suggest waiting until you "feel safe" and have only minor discomfort. Then try a short drive on quiet roads, preferably accompanied by a friend or relative. Depending on how you feel the driving distance can then be increased.

For more information or to make an appointment with Mr Martin Brett, consultant general surgeon please call 01925 215 029.


Important to note

Hernia operations, circumstances and fitness do vary so treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs. Always seek advice from the doctors and clinical staff treating you.     


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