Question from: 5/18/98

I have been told I have a hernia. What exactly is it and what causes it?

Ken Hagan, M.D.

General Surgery Group, P.A.

Answer: A hernia is a weak spot in the abdominal wall. There are certain areas of the body that are more prone to develop hernias; specifically the groin (inguinal hernia) and umbilical ("belly button") region. Men are affected twelve times more often than women.

Usually, these hernias start as a small, weak area or dimpling, and with time they can slowly enlarge due to pressure from within the abdomen. Sometimes, as a hernia enlarges it can become painful.

Hernias are usually repaired when they are found since there are some serious complications that can occur if the hernia has a portion of bowel or other intra-abdominal contents trapped within it's hernia sac. This is called an "incarcerated hernia" and requires a much more complex form of surgery performed on an urgent basis. Recovery from surgical repair of an incarcerated hernia is substantially longer than that required for outpatient repair of a hernia that has not yet incarcerated.

Hernias do not get better on their own and are not treatable with trusses or any type of medication. The surgical repair of hernias has been substantial advanced in recent years, with the majority of patients being amenable to laparoscopic repair. Most patients can have this type of surgery performed at an Ambulatory Surgery Center and go home the same day. Laparoscopic hernia repair is associated with less post-operative discomfort and time lost from work.

Ken Hagan, M.D.

General Surgery Group, P.A.

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