A hernia occurs when fatty tissue or an organ protrudes through a weakened area in the surrounding connective tissue or muscular wall. Typically, hernias do not spontaneously improve; instead, they tend to increase in size.
In exceptional instances, they can result in life-threatening complications. Hence, medical professionals frequently suggest surgical intervention. However, not every hernia requires immediate treatment; the decision depends on its size and associated symptoms. If a hernia remains asymptomatic, it may not necessitate any treatment.
Surgical hernia repair involves repositioning the bulging tissue back into the appropriate body cavity using mesh and securing it there.
Do I Require Hernia Surgery?
Your healthcare provider is likely to recommend hernia surgery in the following situations:
- When tissue, such as the intestine, becomes trapped within the abdominal wall, a condition known as incarceration. If left untreated, this can progress to strangulation, where the blood supply to the trapped tissue is compromised.
- If the hernia becomes strangulated, it can lead to permanent damage and is considered a surgical emergency. Strangulated organs, typically the intestines, can necrotize, potentially resulting in serious illness. You should promptly contact your doctor if you experience fever, nausea, sudden worsening pain, or if the hernia changes colour to red, purple, or dark.
- When the hernia causes pain, and discomfort, or continues to enlarge.
You may be able to postpone surgery if:
- The hernia disappears when you lie down, or you can manually push it back into your abdominal cavity; this is termed a reducible hernia.
- It is small and causes minimal or no symptoms, as these hernias may never require surgical intervention.
Hernia Surgery Risks
Typically, hernia surgery is considered quite safe. However, like any surgical intervention, the removal of a hernia carries several potential complications, which can include:
- Wound infection.
- Formation of blood clots: These may develop due to prolonged immobility during anaesthesia.
- Pain: It is common for the treated area to experience soreness during the healing process. In certain cases, individuals may develop persistent, long-term pain following surgery, especially for a groin hernia. Experts suspect that the procedure may affect specific nerves. Laparoscopic surgery may result in less pain compared to open procedures.
- Hernia recurrence: There is a possibility that the hernia may reappear after surgery. Research indicates that using mesh can reduce the risk of recurrence by half.
Are there Non-Surgical Hernia Treatment Options?
Your healthcare provider might suggest the use of a corset, binder, or truss. These supportive undergarments apply gentle pressure on the hernia, holding it in place. They can help alleviate discomfort or pain and are recommended when surgery is not an option or as a temporary measure before the surgical procedure. It’s important to use these garments only under the guidance of your doctor.
If you are suffering from an ongoing hernia, it may be time to consider hernia surgery. Over time, hernias can worsen and become problematic. Specialist surgeons have years of experience removing and repairing hernias. During your consultation, any risks and side effects of each treatment will be discussed in detail.