What is a hernia repair?

A hernia repair is the surgical correction of a hernia. A hernia is a condition in which an organ or other structure protrudes through a weak part of tissue or muscle. In some cases, a hernia can create a visible lump or bulge in the skin. A hernia repair returns the organ or structure to its proper place and fixes the weakened area of muscle or tissue.

A hernia repair is a common but major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options available. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having a hernia repair.

Types of hernia repair

The types of hernia repair procedures include:

  • Mesh repairs use a mesh plug to cover and strengthen the weakened area of muscle or tissue.
  • Suture repairs use stitches to strengthen the tissues around the weakened area.

Why is a hernia repair performed?

Your doctor may recommend a hernia repair to treat hernias causing pain or other symptoms. Hernias occur in any area of your abdominal (belly) wall. However, the most common sites are in the groin (inguinal hernia), at the naval (umbilical hernia), or at a previous surgical incision site.

Nonsurgical treatment, or watchful waiting, may be an option for adults with hernias that are not causing symptoms. Without surgery, however, the hernia will grow larger over time. Sometimes, it can become trapped (incarcerated) outside your abdominal wall. This can cut off the blood supply to the hernia, resulting in a strangulated hernia. This requires urgent surgical repair. Symptoms of an incarcerated hernia include nausea, vomiting, pain, and color changes in the bulging area.

Surgery is the only way to repair a hernia. Your doctor may consider a hernia repair if watchful waiting is not an option for you. Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on hernia surgery.

Your doctor may recommend surgical repair of the following hernias:

  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a birth defect in which abdominal organs protrude up into the chest cavity.
  • Femoral hernia is the protrusion of abdominal fat or part of the intestines through the abdominal muscles into the upper thigh area.
  • Hiatal hernia is the protrusion of a portion of the stomach through an opening in the diaphragm called the hiatus. Hiatal hernia is also called a hiatus hernia.
  • Incisional hernia is a hernia that develops through a previous surgical incision. This can occur anywhere on the abdomen or back.
  • Inguinal hernia is the protrusion of abdominal fat or part of the intestines through the abdominal muscles into the groin area (also called the inguinal canal). Inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia.
  • Umbilical hernia is the protrusion of part of the intestines or abdominal lining through the abdominal wall around the belly button. It most often occurs in infants ages six months and younger.

Who performs a hernia repair?

General surgeons and pediatric surgeons repair hernias. General surgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of diseases of the abdomen, including appendicitis, hernia, and gallbladder, stomach and intestinal diseases. Pediatric surgeons specialize in the surgical care of diseases, injuries and deformities in premature and newborn infants, children, and adolescents.

How is a hernia repair performed?

Your surgeon will make an incision and put the displaced tissue or organs back into proper place. Stitches are used to strengthen the tissues around the weakened area. A more common technique involves inserting a mesh patch to cover and strengthen the weakened area of muscle or tissue.

Surgical approaches to hernia repair

Hernia repair surgery is performed in a hospital using one of the following approaches:

  • Minimally invasive surgery is performed by inserting special instruments and a laparoscope through small incisions in your abdomen (belly). A laparoscope is a thin, lighted instrument with a small camera. The camera transmits pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen viewed by your doctor as he or she performs the surgery. Minimally invasive surgery generally involves a faster recovery and less pain than open surgery. This is because it causes less damage to tissues and organs. Your doctor will make small incisions instead of a larger one used in open surgery. Your doctor threads surgical tools around structures and organs instead of cutting through or displacing them as in open surgery.
  • Open surgery uses a large incision in your abdomen. The length of the incision will depend on the size of the hernia. An open surgery incision allows your doctor to directly view and access the surgical area. Open surgery generally involves a longer recovery and more pain than minimally invasive surgery because it causes more trauma to tissues. Open surgery requires a larger incision and involves more cutting and displacement of muscle and other tissues. Despite the potential for damage, open surgery may be a safer or more effective method for certain patients.