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What is a Hernia?

Dr. Sujata Gill - What is a Hernia?

What is a hernia?

A hernia is a weakness or defect of the abdominal wall that allows a protrusion of the abdominal contents through the defect. Hernias commonly occur in the groin, at the navel, or at the site of prior surgical scars.
 

What causes a hernia?

A weakness can occur because of defects present at birth, or defects that develop later in life because of damage to the abdominal wall or surgical scars. Pressure inside the abdomen from straining, coughing or other activities tends to make the defects enlarge over time.
 

How do hernias cause problems?

Hernias tend to enlarge over time. As the edges of the defect stretch, the patient feels pain which may interfere with activities. The intestines will frequently protrude into the hernia, and may become trapped, or incarcerated, by the edges of the defect. If swelling occurs, the blood supply to the bowel may be cut off, causing damage to the bowel and necessitating an emergency operation.
 

What can I do to prevent problems with a hernia?

Most hernias should be repaired when discovered so as to prevent strangulation. On occasion it is necessary to avoid surgery or there may be a delay in having the hernia repaired. Under such circumstances, avoidance of heavy lifting and straining, smoking cessation and perhaps use of an abdominal binder may be necessary.
 

How are hernias repaired?

The techniques for hernia repair are quite varied, depending on such factors as patient age, prior surgery, location of the hernia, whether prior repairs have been attempted, and the general health of the patient. Most hernias can be repaired as outpatient surgery, frequently under local anesthesia. In most cases, your surgeon will use a patch of man-made materials to strengthen the repair and reduce the chances of the hernia coming back. Sometimes videoscope surgery is the best way to fix a hernia.
 

What should I do if I think I have a hernia?

Have your family doctor examine you. He or she can usually tell if a hernia is present. If further evaluation is felt necessary, you will be referred to a qualified surgeon for consultation. If you don't have a family doctor, you may contact our office to schedule an examination.