What is an abdominal hernia and what can I expect if I need surgery?

By: Dr. Carlos Garcia-Cantu, Chief of Staff at DHR Health

In general, an abdominal wall hernia is a bulge or lump through an opening in the muscles of the abdomen. When a hernia develops, a person may complain about pain or pressure and a bulge at the hernia site. One may even experience exaggerated pain or pressure when coughing or straining.

An abdominal hernia usually occurs in areas of muscle weakness like previous incision sites. Other frequent areas of muscle weakness in the abdomen are the umbilical and the inguinal areas. In many cases, hernias may have no symptoms, however, this type of hernia usually causes a person to develop a lump. Depending on its cause, a hernia can develop quickly or over a long period of time.

The only way to effectively treat a hernia if it is growing or causing pain is through surgical repair. There are several surgical techniques to repair an abdominal wall hernia which include, the OPEN HERNIA REPAIR, and two minimally invasive techniques, the LAPAROSCOPIC REPAIR and the ROBOTIC ASSISTED LAPAROSCOPIC REPAIR.

The OPEN HERNIA REPAIR is a commonly used technique for treating hernias. This surgery is performed through an incision that is made on the area of the bulging and in some cases the repair is done by using mesh to help reinforce the weakened muscles.

The LAPAROSCOPIC REPAIR and the ROBOTIC ASSISTED LAPAROSCOPIC REPAIR techniques utilize mesh and have demonstrated tremendous success. These minimally invasive techniques are performed using a tiny camera and by introducing instruments needed for the repair trough a very small incision. These techniques have not only shown a decrease in the infection rate, but also a shortened length of stay in the hospital.

The surgery of a hernia will have better results when performed electively, in other words if the abdominal hernia becomes an emergency due to an acute incarceration or strangulation, the repair is more demanding and the recurrence and complication rate may be higher. Not all hernias are suitable for the same surgery. DHR Health Surgery Institute surgeons can work with you to determine which type of surgery is best for your condition.