• What to Do Once You’ve Been Diagnosed with a Hernia

    on Jul 31st, 2018

A hernia diagnosis can cause anxiety as you wonder what’s next. It’s natural to have questions.

First, know that hernias are extremely common and easily treatable — every year doctors in the United States repair more than 700,000 hernias. With the right surgical care, you can expect to fully recover and get back to your normal life as if you’d never even had a hernia.

Understand your diagnosis

A hernia is a hole in what is called the fascia, or the connective tissue that helps to reinforce the abdominal wall and keep our abdominal organs in place.  There are several types of hernias based on where, anatomically, they occur. Inguinal (groin) hernias and umbilical are the most common, regardless of gender.  

Knowing the type of hernia you have helps you prepare for treatment and plan for what you will be needing in order to have it repaired. Ask your provider questions to gain a solid understanding of your diagnosis.

How did you get a hernia?

You may wonder what you did that contributed to your hernia and how to avoid it happening again in the future.  In the past we would have blamed heavy lifting or straining of some sort as the cause of your hernia. More recent studies, however, have found that some people are likely more predisposed to developing hernias than others, suggesting that there may be more of a genetic component involved.  In short, don’t blame yourself as you probably couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. Instead, focus on what to do now in order to get it fixed.

Discuss treatment options

After your hernia diagnosis, it’s vital to discuss treatment options. While it is true that all hernias require surgery in order to be repaired, the timing of that surgery can vary significantly depending on the location and size of the hernia defect as well as the types of symptoms that it is causing.

If your hernia isn’t causing you any pain, then it is likely that you won’t need an immediate operation and can safely wait and choose a more convenient time for your surgery.  If you are having symptoms, such as pain, nausea, or constipation then it is likely that you will need to have your procedure sooner rather than later. The decision on when to have your surgery isn’t something that you should try to decide all on your own, however, but rather in conjunction with a surgeon who specializes in hernia surgery.

Know surgical options

If your provider recommends surgery, it’s good to have a full understanding of the surgical options. Hernia repair involves returning the displaced organ and tissues to their original position, and then taking measures to repair or patch the actual hernia defect to prevent a recurrence.  There are two basic surgical options for having this done.

Laparoscopic

This minimally invasive surgery involves using a small camera that is inserted through tiny incisions into the area of the hernia. This then allows the surgeon to restore the normal anatomy and then patch the hernia defect.  When done by someone who is an expert in laparoscopy, this technique is truly hard to beat. The procedure typically takes less than an hour, is done as an outpatient, and allows return to normal activity (going to work, driving, light jogging, etc...) in 2-3 days.  Having done on average 200 - 250 laparoscopic hernia repairs annually for the past decade, Dr. deVilleneuve is definitely considered an expert in laparoscopic hernia surgery.

Open repair

As the name suggests, open repair involves making a larger incision in the hernia area, pushing the displaced organ or tissue back into position, and then either suturing the defect closed or using mesh to repair the weak spot. The recovery from an open repair will be longer than that with a more minimally invasive repair, and statistically speaking does have a higher likelihood of recurring or having chronic pain after sugery.

Discuss lifestyle modifications

Changes meant to reduce unnecessary pressure on the hernia area are often recommended for hernias that don’t require immediate surgery or as home care in preparation for surgery.

For abdominal hernias, your provider may recommend that you avoid heavy lifting and tight-fitting pants. Here some other recommendations to try if you have a hernia diagnosis:

Losing weight

If you’re overweight, your provider may recommend that you aim to get your BMI within a healthy range. Being overweight stretches the abdominal lining, which increases the risk of getting a hernia in the first place and may make an existing hernia worse.  In addition, all of the inherent risks of surgery are exacerbated by being overweight.

Increasing fiber intake

Some men and women who suffer from digestive problems involving constipation may develop a hernia from straining during bowel movements. If this is the case, your provider may recommend increasing your fiber intake. This softens your stool and reduces bowel movement strain.

Physical therapy

Your health care team may recommend physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles in the area of the hernia.

If you do need surgery for your hernia, you can count on the expert team at Surgical Associates of North Texas. Every patient is evaluated individually, and treatment plans are tailored to address your unique situation. Call our McKinney  office to schedule a consultation, or use our convenient online booking tool.

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