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A hernia is a small or large opening in the wall of the abdomen. When a hernia is present it can be seen as a bulging out of the abdomen. It is easier to visualize a bulging hernia when the muscles of the abdomen are tightened.

Inguinal (groin) Hernia Locations

Certain activities can cause the bulge to worsen, such as lifting, coughing, or straining. There can be very serious complications from a hernia if the tissue that is bulging through the abdominal wall gets trapped and the blood supply gets cut off. This will cause that section of the tissue to die, which can then lead to very serious complications. In these situations, the hernia must be repaired surgically. 


Inguinal (groin) hernias are the most common because there is a natural weakness in the groin area which sometimes results in the muscle not completely covering the area.  It is also the most common area of hernia because when we stand up gravity pushes our organs downward, thus causing the weakened walls of the groin area to form a hole and squeeze tissue through. 

Another type of hernia includes a ventral hernia, which is found near the midline of the abdomen just above the belly button. These types of hernias are generally painless. [1]

Which type of hernia you have depends on where it is [1]:

  • Femoral hernia is a bulge in the upper thigh, just below the groin. This type is more common in women than men.
  • Hiatal hernia occurs in the upper part of the stomach. Part of the upper stomach pushes into the chest.
  • Incisional hernia can occur through a scar if you have had abdominal surgery in the past.
  • Umbilical hernia is a bulge around the belly button. It occurs when the muscle around the belly button does not close completely after birth.
  • Inguinal hernia is a bulge in the groin. It is more common in men. It may go all the way down into the scrotum.

Surgical Repair of Hernia 

Hernia repair is a surgical process. There are different types of procedures for repairing certain types of hernias. The standard hernia surgery is done under general anesthesia and an incision is done just over the site of the bulging tissue. Once the surgeon separates the normal tissue and finds the hole in the abdomen, he/she will push the good tissue back through the hole and then close it using sutures or a type of plastic mesh. Using sutures alone can sometimes not be as strong as using the mess material and may cause a second tearing of the tissue when the patient strains or lifts something heavy.  Because the reassurance of hernias, especially in the groin area, surgeons have taken a different approach to repairing the holes by suturing deeper tissue layers which result in the repair being stronger and limits future hernias. Most hernia repairs are now done laparoscopically, which is less invasive and lessens the time the recovery time.  

Complications of Hernia Surgery

The biggest risk of hernia surgery is an infection and excessive bleeding. As with any type of surgery infection is always a concern and patients need to be very aware of the incision site and consult their doctor if they spike a fever or notice abnormal redness around the site. In some patients, excessive bleeding or the lack of the wound clotting is also a risk. 

Patients who are on blood thinners or who are on Aspirin© therapy should inform their doctor prior to the surgery. The doctor will likely ask them to refrain from taking the blood thinners and Aspirin© until after the surgery is complete. Continuation of Aspirin is safe and should be preferred in patients with higher cardiovascular risk. [2] Many times doctors will prescribe antibiotics as a precaution method to prepare against possible infection.

Recovery Period After Hernia Surgery

Because hernia surgeries are routinely performed as a laparoscopic procedure, the recovery time is much shorter than it used to be. Most patients are treated as an outpatient, have the surgery, and are released the same day. A very large percent of hernia surgery patients return to regular activities within a week of surgery. Compared to when the surgery was performed as an open surgery in which the recovery time was several weeks, laparoscopic procedures to repair hernias are a very routine and easy surgery. 

Patients are generally released with a prescription for pain medication and antibiotics. Patients seldom need more than one or two doses of the pain medication and find very few complaints after surgery. The use of laparoscopic surgeries also decreases the chance of infection as the site of incision is less than an inch which is where the scope is inserted into the abdomen. Most incisions don’t require sutures and often patients are sent home with just a small bandage over the insertion site. 

Over the years, technology has benefited so many when it comes to surgical procedures. In the past, a patient might have to spend several days in the hospital and then several weeks recovering from hernia surgery. But today patients are on their feet within a few hours of surgery and often back to their normal routines within days after the surgery. 

Surgery to repair hernias has improved dramatically over the years and has taken what used to be a complicated and possibly dangerous procedure and turned it into an easy fix. Also because the procedure itself has been improved so much over the years, the likelihood of a hernia reoccurring is minimal. In the past patients might have to have a same hernia repaired two or even three times during their life but now surgeons are repairing hernias so well that most patients never have a problem again. 

On a personal note, when my oldest son was ten years old he developed a hernia in his groin area. After consulting his pediatrician, he was referred to a surgeon who agreed that it needed to be repaired. My son was taken into surgery at eight in the morning, came out of surgery by 9, and we went home before noon. He spent two days out of school and then returned to normal activity without any complications. My son is a 28-year-old man now and a professional rock climber. He has never had a single problem since his hernia was repaired and will likely never experience another problem. His profession is very physical and he often strains but the technique his surgeon used has held tight for many years. 

Medicine has come a long way in the past twenty years alone and even more medical breakthroughs are being invented every year.  Repair of a hernia, although still considered major surgery, is quick, nearly painless, and much safer than it was just a short twenty years ago.