They are often used on TV shows as a comedic joke, but anyone who has had a hernia knows they are no laughing matter.
Ashtabula County Medical Center Surgeon Tianli Du, MD, said a person may live with a hernia for years without serious symptoms, but that doesn’t mean people should put off getting it repaired – it could become bigger and painful. If you have a hernia, surgery is the only way to fully repair the damage.
“A hernia occurs when a part of the intestines, soft tissue, or an organ pushes through the abdominal wall or diaphragm. It may not initially be painful, but if the herniated section becomes trapped or pinched, it could cut off its own blood supply and cause a life-threatening infection,” Dr. Du said. “A hernia may also become obstructed if part of the intestine becomes stuck in the inguinal canal. This can lead to painful stomach problems, as well as nausea or vomiting.”
Hernias most often occur in the groin, abdomen, or esophagus (a hiatal hernia). Millions of Americans may have a hernia and not even know it. The only symptoms may be a lump, dull ache, or pulling sensation in your groin or abdomen or mild heartburn for a hiatal hernia.
Symptoms a hernia is worsening to the point it becomes a medical emergency include:
- Severe pain, swelling, or discoloration where the hernia has occurred
- Constipation or bloating
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Expansion of bulge at herniated area
Dr. Du said most hernia repairs can be done with outpatient surgery using the laparoscopic surgical method to avoid open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally-invasive procedure in which the surgeon makes small incisions in the abdomen. A laparoscope, a small camera with a light, is inserted in one opening and the surgical tools needed to repair the hernia are inserted in another. Patients who have outpatient, laparoscopic hernia repairs are usually back on their feet in a few hours and able to return home with further instructions on caring for the incisions. In most cases, people can return to work and other normal activities in about three days.
The first step to hernia repair begins with a visit to your primary care provider. They will diagnose your symptoms and may use diagnostic imaging to see the potential hernia. If surgery is required, they will refer you to a general surgeon. You can also schedule an appointment directly with the surgeons at ACMC by calling 440-997-6969.