Many people have the medical issue and may not even be aware of it. Although the issue is usually relatively minor, some hernias can cause significant problems and may even be life threatening. During hernia awareness month, it’s a good time to educate yourself on hernias and make an appointment to be evaluated if you think you may have one.
What is a hernia?
A hernia is caused by a weakness in the abdominal wall that progresses to a full-thickness hole. This weakness may be present at birth or can be caused by the wear and tear of daily living. Areas such as the belly button or a healed surgical incision are even more prone to weakness. Other risk factors for hernias include obesity, smoking, and diabetes.
Weakness in the abdominal wall can allow the contents of the abdomen to push outward, causing a bulge under the skin. This may cause pain, or if intestine is involved, can cause an intestinal obstruction or even strangulation. Symptoms depend on the size, location, and contents of the hernia, such as fatty tissue verses intestine.
Common symptoms include:
• A bulge in the groin, abdomen, thigh, or genitals—the bulge may get bigger when you stand and go away when you lie down
• Discomfort or pain may be worse at the end of the day or after standing for long periods
• Pain during heavy lifting, coughing, sneezing, or physical activities
• A feeling of weakness or pressure in the groin
Types of hernias
The type of hernia depends on its location and can occur in the groin or the abdomen. Hernias also can appear on both sides of the body—bilateral hernias—and recur in the same spot—recurrent hernias. In some cases, you can have more than one type at a time.
The types of hernias include:
• Inguinal hernias: These occur in the groin and are the most common type of hernia, more common in men. These hernias occur when fatty tissue or intestines push through a weak spot in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal found in your groin.
• Umbilical hernias: A normal weak spot can enlarge with heavy lifting, weight gain, and sometimes pregnancy causing fatty tissue or intestine to push out the belly button. These may be small and asymptomatic but can continue to enlarge and cause significant problems.
• Incisional hernias: These occur after abdominal surgery when your intestines push through the scar or the weakened tissue surrounding the incision.
There are several options your doctor may suggest to help alleviate your discomfort. Surgery is usually necessary to repair the defect in the abdominal wall. If not treated, a hernia can get larger and lead to serious medical complications.
Many hernia repairs can be performed robotically with the DaVinci surgical system. Robotic assisted surgery allows surgeons to repair hernias through small incisions in the abdomen using special instruments that allow improved dexterity and range of motion compared to traditional laparoscopic surgery. This results in faster recovery and less pain for the patient.
Dr. Schmidt and I both perform robotic hernia repair surgeries at Fisher Titus.
In addition to general surgery, robotic-assisted surgery is also an option for patients with gynecological issues. For more information, visit fishertitus.org/robotic-surgery.
Dr. Michael Nill is a general surgeon with Fisher-Titus General Surgery. He completed his general surgery training at The Ohio State University’s Medical Center and has been performing robotic-assisted hernia repairs for the last five years. For more information about Surgical Services at Fisher-Titus, visit fishertitus.org/surgical-services.