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What is a hernia?

Hernias are weaknesses or bulges in the wall of the abdominal cavity. The abdominal cavity – or belly, is the compartment of your body that contains digestive organs (stomach and intestines); solid organs (kidney, liver, and spleen); reproductive organs; and some endocrine organs (glands). The abdominal cavity extends from your diaphragm (just beneath your ribs) to the groin, including your flanks and abdominal muscles.

How do you get a hernia?

Hernias can be either congenital, meaning you are born with them, or acquired. Acquired hernias are often caused by heavy lifting or other exertion, sometimes referred to as a rupture, or they can happen after surgery and are called incisional hernias.

Mature man holding stomach in pain

Where can you get hernias?

Hernias can occur anywhere in the abdomen that has a hole which structures pass through either into or out of the abdominal cavity. For example, the hole that the blood vessels pass through to get from the heart to the legs can form a hernia in the groin known as a femoral hernia.

  • Groin hernias: can occur in both men and women.
  • Umbilical hernias: occur in your bellybutton where the umbilical cord entered your abdomen when you were developing.
  • Incisional hernias: can occur anywhere you have a scar on your abdomen from surgery.
  • Ventral hernias: can occur on the surface of your belly anywhere muscles overlap one another.
  • Hiatal hernias: can occur in the diaphragm, where the esophagus passes through the diaphragm.
  • Internal hernias: can occur because of twisting or kinking of the intestines, usually after some type of intestinal surgery including a gastric bypass.

Why do hernias need to be repaired?

Often hernias cause pain, particularly with exertion or strenuous activity. The danger of a hernia is that organs in the abdomen, most commonly the intestines or stomach, can get stuck in one of these holes and cause a kink. This kink in the intestines can result in a bowel obstruction, or in the case of the stomach, cause reflux or heartburn symptoms. In the most serious cases the organ can get stuck and the blood supply is cut off causing the organ or part of it to die.

How are hernias repaired?

At Northwest Weight & Wellness Center we repair hernias using laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery. Typically, we are able to repair these hernias with 3 or 4 incisions that are each about ¼ inch long. Sometimes we have to use mesh which is a screen like material to reinforce the hernia repair. This mesh is specifically designed for use in surgery, and may be the type that dissolves over time, or may remain as a part of you.

Because the incisions are so small, you will have less pain, barely noticeable scars, and return to normal activities more quickly. The operations are usually less than an hour and you will go home the same day.

What is recovery like after hernia repair?

Within an hour of the operation, you will be walking and drinking liquids. About an hour later you will be discharged home. You may need pain medications for 2-3 days, though we have made significant improvements in pain control, so your discomfort can be managed with ibuprofen (Advil) and/or Tylenol. We will see you either in the office or virtually 1 week after surgery. Most people only need to take 1 week off of work, or possibly 2 if you have a strenuous job. You can resume your regular diet after surgery.

The providers at Northwest Weight & Wellness Center have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.

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