Your doctor will determine which type of surgery is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital or surgical center based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different hernia repair procedures and ask why your doctor will use a particular type of procedure for you.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your surgeon will perform a hernia repair using either regional anesthesia or general anesthesia.

  • General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a special type of sleep. During general anesthesia, you are unaware of the procedure and will not feel any pain. You may also receive a peripheral nerve block infusion in addition to general anesthesia. This type of anesthesia involves an injection or a continuous drip of a liquid anesthetic. The anesthetic flows through a tiny tube inserted near your surgical site to control pain during and after surgery.
  • Regional anesthesia is also known as a nerve block, an epidural, or spinal anesthesia. Regional anesthesia involves injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves in the spine so you do not feel anything below the waist. You will likely have sedation with regional anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable.

What to expect the day of your hernia repair

The day of your surgery, you can generally expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure that you understand and sign the surgical consent.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member if possible. The surgical team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will receive.
  • A surgical team member will start an IV.
  • The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will start your anesthesia.
  • A tube will be placed in your windpipe to protect and control your breathing during general anesthesia.
  • A team member may also insert a tube through your nose to keep your stomach empty and a catheter into your bladder to collect urine and monitor kidney function. You will not feel or remember this or the surgical procedure.
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and your recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

What are the risks and potential complications of a hernia repair?

As with all surgeries, hernia repair involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or recovery.

General risks of surgery

The general risks of surgical procedures include:

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock
  • Blood clot, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood

Potential complications of a hernia repair

Complications of a hernia repair can be serious and include:

  • Nerve damage, which can lead to tingling or numbness in the groin and upper thigh
  • Organ, blood vessel, or bowel damage
  • Pain lasting longer than three months
  • Recurrence of hernia
  • Testicular pain or swelling
  • Urinary retention or inability to urinate

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by following your treatment plan and:

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during recovery
  • Informing your doctor or radiologist if you are nursing or if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if have any allergies