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Hernias involving the abdominal wall or groin are a common problem and can cause troublesome symptoms. Surgery may be needed to eradicate these symptoms and to prevent any further complications of the hernia.
A hernia is a hole in the abdominal muscle allowing the lining of the abdominal cavity together with another structure, such as a loop of bowel, to pop out and produce a lump. Hernias most commonly occur in the groin, such as an inguinal hernia, but can occur at other places such as around the umbilicus (belly button).
A hernia can occur at any age and can even be found in newborn babies. They are more common in men with around a quarter of men developing a groin hernia at some point in their life. A family history, as well as conditions that raise the pressure within the abdomen - for example constipation or a persistent cough, can increase the chance of developing a hernia.
A hernia may not produce any symptoms at all and may be found when a doctor examines a patient for other reasons. Symptoms include a lump or discomfort in the area of the hernia and are often worse after physical activity or towards the end of the day, however they usually disappear when lying flat.
The diagnosis of a hernia is usually made by a doctor feeling the area in question and asking the patient to cough. Sometimes the diagnosis is more difficult, particularly if the swelling is not obvious on examination. Dependent upon circumstance it may be necessary to perform a scan, such as an ultrasound or MRI, to detect the hernia.
Most hernias require surgery to repair. Even if the hernia is not causing any pain, the option of surgery is still discussed. Over time the hernia can increase in size and may cause pain later. Most operations are performed under general anaesthetic but if not possible for medical reasons, a repair under local anaesthetic is still possible. The majority of hernias are repaired by placing a small sheet of mesh over the hole in the abdominal muscle using an open or laparoscopic (key-hole) method.
Recovery for a patient depends on the type of surgery but most operations are now performed as a day case procedure. As a guide it is recommended to rest for a few days following surgery but typically a patient can resume normal activities within the first week. It is best to avoid heavy lifting for two or three weeks and driving should be avoided for the first week or so until the pain subsides enough to allow an emergency stop manoeuvre.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above, do not hesitate to book an appointment with Consultant Colorectal & General Surgeon, Mr Gary Atkin. Call our team today on 01442 331 900 or use the contact form here.