As many times as you’ve heard the term, do you know what a hernia is? If not, you are not alone. Many people aren’t aware of the types, causes, and symptoms. And with hernia surgery, people often ask us what happens, how long is the recovery, and how much does it cost for hernia surgery?
We’ve answered the most common questions below. For more information or to speak with a specialist, click here.
What is a hernia?
The medical definition of a hernia is:
A general term referring to a protrusion of a tissue through the wall of the cavity that contains it. Also known as rupture.
Don’t worry, here’s an explanation for those who don’t speak fluent medicalese:
You know those organs in your body, like your lungs, belly, and large intestines? They can’t just float around wherever they want, so we all come equipped with tissue and muscle that holds those organs in place. A hernia is when an organ pokes out through a weak spot in the connective tissue or muscle surrounding it.
Think about a roll of frozen cookie dough. In this scenario, the dough is the organ and the casing is the connective tissue holding it all in place. What happens when you slice it with a knife? Some of that yummy goodness oozes through the hole, right? That’s what happens with a hernia. And just like the slice in that frozen cookie dough, an unrepaired hernia that can grow bigger and bigger if it isn’t closed up.
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Types of hernias
Poke around on the internet and you’re bound to hear terms like inguinal, umbilical, and epigastric. “What do those words mean?” you might ask. “Are there types that are bigger or more dangerous?”
The names of the different types correspond to where they occur on the body:
- Inguinal Hernias make up 96% of groin hernias. They are also most common in men. Patients need inguinal hernia repairs when the intestine or the bladder squeezes an opening in the diaphragm through the abdominal wall or into the inguinal canal in the groin.
- Epigastric Hernia is when fat forms a lump in your upper belly as it pushes out through a weakness between the belly button and breastbone.
- Ventral Hernias occur when a bulge of tissues pops through an open area or a weakness in your abdominal wall muscles. It can occur at any location on your belly.
- Umbilical Hernia is when part of the small intestine pokes through the abdominal wall near the belly button. This is common in newborns, obese women, and women who have had a lot of children.
“Wow, that all sounds intense. How do I know if I have a hernia?”
Are you experiencing any of these signs or symptoms?
- Inguinal hernia (1):
- A bulge in the area on either side of your pubic bone, which becomes more obvious when you’re upright. Coughing or straining will amplify it.
- A burning or aching sensation at the bulge
- Pain or discomfort in your groin which intensifies when bending over, coughing or lifting
- A heavy or dragging sensation in your groin
- Weakness or pressure in your groin
- Pain and swelling around the testicles when the protruding intestine descends into the scrotum
- Epigastric hernia emergency signs and symptoms include (2):
- High fever
- Difficulty urinating
- Continuous bleeding
- The need to vomit
- Ventral hernia signs and symptoms include (3):
- A bulge in the abdomen that gets larger.
- The need to vomit
- Umbilical Hernia signs and symptoms include (4):
- A bulge or swelling in the area of the navel.
- The bulge gets bigger when you bend, cough, or strain to have a bowel movement.
- Pain or burning in your abdomen.
- The skin over the bulge may swell
What are the causes?
Common causes of muscle weakness include:
- failure of the abdominal wall to close in the womb, which is a congenital defect
- chronic coughing
- damage from injury or surgery
Factors that strain your body and may cause a hernia, if you have weak muscles, include:
- Pregnancy, which puts pressure on your abdomen
- Constipation, which causes you to strain when having a bowel movement
- Lifting heavy weights
- Fluid in the abdomen, or ascites
- Sudden weight loss
- Surgery in the area
- Persistent coughing or sneezing
What is a hernia surgery?
Hernia surgery is when a surgeon closes the rupture during abdominal surgery. Surgeons can do this through Herniorrhaphy (tissue or muscle repair) or Hernioplasty (mesh repair).
During a herniorrhaphy, a surgeon will return the organs to their original position and stitch the hole shut.
During a hernioplasty, instead of stitching the muscle or tissue opening shut, the surgeon covers it with a flat, sterile mesh, often made of flexible plastics, such as polypropylene, or animal tissue.
Surgeons cut incisions around the hole in the shape of the mesh. Then they stitch the patch into the healthy, intact surrounding tissues.
Damaged or weak tissues surrounding the hernia will use the mesh as a scaffold to strengthen them as they regrow.
How much does it cost?
NTTC offers the flat-rate cash prices below for these procedures. This option helps patients who either don’t have or don’t want to use insurance. These prices include the facility fee, surgeon fee, and anesthesia:
|Laparoscopic Ventral repair||$5,500|
|Laparoscopic Umbilical repair||$5,500|
Get familiar with the specifics of your coverage if you plan to have insurance cover the cost of your hernia operation. For example, find out your annual deductible and how much you have met so far. Staff at NTTC are available to walk you through the process.
Is a hernia life-threatening? Why should I have surgery?
We recommend that hernias get repaired upon detection. Even if it isn’t causing discomfort or pain, it will continue to grow. Small ruptures are easier to repair than large ones.
Sometimes you can’t push the tissue or organ back to its place. This can cause a “strangulated hernia,” and shut off the blood flow to that part of the organ, allowing it to die. These situations require immediate hernia surgery.
This can also cause bowel obstruction, depending on the location.
How long does it take to recover?
Most people can return to work after 1 – 2 weeks, although, some need more time if your job requires manual labor. Depending on your occupation, full recovery may take 4 – 6 weeks.
What does recovery look like?
Here are the instructions we give our patients after hernia surgery:
- Moderate activity as tolerated.
- Walk as often as you feel able.
- Do coughing and deep breathing exercises several times an hour while awake.
- Avoid heavy lifting.
- Do not drive a car or work machinery for 24 hours.
- Do not sign legal documents for 24 hours.
- You may experience light-headedness, dizziness, and sleepiness after surgery. You should have a responsible adult with you for 24 hours after surgery.
- Progress slowly to a regular diet. Start with liquids, then light foods (soup, Jell-O, etc.) as you can tolerate, progressing to solid foods. Avoid heavy, spicy, fried foods when first eating.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages for 24 hours after your procedure or while taking antibiotics or narcotic pain medication.
- If you have skin glue or steri strips, do not pick at or try to remove. Leave intact until your postoperative follow up appointment with your surgeon. It is okay to shower the following day after surgery. Do not submerge your incision under water.
- If you have a dressing, keep the dressing clean and dry. Do not remove the dressing until your postoperative follow-up visit with your surgeon unless instructed to do so by your surgeon. You may take a sponge bath only the next day after surgery, but do not get your dressing wet.
- Observe the operative area for signs of excessive bleeding. A small amount of bright red bleeding is normal. If your bandage becomes saturated, do not remove and call your surgeon.
- You should have a bowel movement 1-2 days after your surgery. If you cannot move your bowels, you may take any over-the-counter fiber laxative and stool softener daily until bowel movements are normal.
- Patients who have had laparoscopic procedures, it is normal to experience gas pains that radiate under the ribs to the should and back. This could last up to 72 hours. Ambulating and applying a warm compress will help ease the discomfort.
CALL YOUR SURGEON IF:
- You have chills or temperature greater than 101F.
- You have redness around the incision and it is warm to touch.
- You have pain that pain medication doesn’t control. Persistent bleeding that is soaking through your dressing.
- If you do not have a follow-up appointment with your surgeon, call their office today to set up an appointment as directed.
- If they got a specimen or biopsy, results will be back in 7-10 days.