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Conditions We Treat

The Center treats several different types of hernia. They include:

  • Inguinal hernias
  • Umbilical hernias
  • Ventral hernias
  • Femoral hernias
  • Spigelian hernias
  • Incisional hernias

Inguinal Hernia

What is an inguinal hernia?

A hernia occurs when a section of intestine protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal wall. A soft bulge is seen underneath the skin where the hernia has occurred. An inguinal hernia occurs in the groin area, when a section of intestine pushes through a weak spot in the inguinal canal--a triangle-shaped opening between layers of abdominal muscle near the groin.

What causes an inguinal hernia?

As a male fetus grows and matures during pregnancy, the testicles develop in the abdomen and then move down into the scrotum through the area called the inguinal canal. Shortly after the male is born, the inguinal canal closes, preventing the testicles from moving back into the abdomen. If this area does not close off completely, a loop of intestine can move into the inguinal canal through the weakened area of the lower abdominal wall, causing a hernia. Although females do not have testicles, they do have an inguinal canal and can develop hernias in this area, as well.

Obesity, pregnancy, heavy lifting, sports injuries, and straining to pass stool can all be causes of inguinal hernias.

What are symptoms of inguinal hernia?

The following are the most common symptoms of an inguinal hernia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Lump in the groin near the thigh
  • Pressure or pain in the groin
  • Partial or complete blockage of the intestine (in more severe cases) that may lead to nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite
  • The symptoms of an inguinal hernia may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is an inguinal hernia diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for an inguinal hernia may include the following:

Blood tests

X-rays and/or CT scan. Diagnostic tests which use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film; to check for blockage of the intestine.

Treatment for an inguinal hernia

Specific treatment for an inguinal hernia will be determined based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

The main treatment for an inguinal hernia is a surgical procedure known as herniorrhaphy. In this procedure, the opening in the muscle wall is repaired. Sometimes, in a procedure known as hernioplasty, the weak area is repaired and reinforced with steel mesh or wire. Laparoscopic surgery can also be performed by making several small incisions in the lower abdomen and inserting an instrument called a laparoscope to carefully repair the hernia using synthetic mesh.

If the protruding intestine becomes twisted or traps stool, a bowel resection may need to be performed. In this procedure, part of the intestine, or bowel, is removed.

Help for Inguinal Hernias

A hernia doesn't occur overnight. The most common kind is actually set in motion right before you're born.

An inguinal hernia is a weak point in the lower abdominal wall. This can be caused when an opening between your abdominal muscles fails to completely close after birth. Sometimes weakness in the abdominal wall itself can cause a hernia. A chronic cough, constipation, excess weight, or heavy lifting can force the soft tissue to push through, resulting in a hernia. Seventy-five percent of all hernias are inguinal, and they are five times more common in men than in women.

Do I have an inguinal hernia?

An inguinal hernia causes a bulge or lump in the groin area. You may notice the bulge more when you're standing, and it may disappear when you're lying down. An inguinal hernia is often painless, but it's possible that the affected area may be tender.

Recognizing these symptoms is the first step in getting help for a hernia. The second step is to see your health care provider. Hernias don't get better by themselves, so getting proper treatment is important.

How is it treated?

In the case of a mild hernia, it can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity below your stomach. If a hernia causes symptoms or gets larger, it most likely needs surgery. Surgery is usually done to prevent long-term and potentially life-threatening complications of hernia, which include incarceration and strangulation.

Incarceration occurs when a loop of the intestine gets trapped in the abdominal wall and prevents bowel movements. Strangulation cuts off blood supply to the intestines and causes intense pain. Both conditions require immediate medical attention.

The surgeon makes an incision in the groin area and repairs the hole in the muscle with mesh, a plug and patch technique similar to repairing a hole in a tire from a nail. It is common in both types of repair for the surgeon to place an artificial patch to help strengthen the area. It may take four to six weeks to recover completely from this procedure.

This is often done with no sedation and typically does no require general anesthesia, making it a safer procedure with a quicker recuperation.

Can I prevent an inguinal hernia?

You may not be able to do much to prevent an inguinal hernia. And, if you have surgery for one, there is the chance that it can come back. But, there are steps you can take that may lessen your risk:

Be careful when lifting heavy objects. Bend from the knees, rather than from the waist.

Maintain a healthy weight. Your health care provider can offer strategies to get you started.

Exercise regularly to help prevent constipation, which may lead to a hernia. A high-fiber diet also can help.

If you smoke, quit. Smoking can cause a chronic cough, which can result in a hernia or make one worse.

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