How do I prepare for my hernia repair?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your comfort and outcome. You can prepare for a hernia repair by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Getting preoperative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Preoperative testing may include an ultrasound of the hernia, chest X-ray, EKG (electrocardiogram), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
  • Losing weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan. This is important in reducing your risk of recurrence.
  • Not eating or drinking just prior to surgery as directed. Your surgery may be cancelled if you eat or drink too close to the start of the procedure because you can choke on stomach contents during deep anesthesia.
  • Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for just a few days can be beneficial and help the healing process.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For a hernia repair, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.

Questions to ask your doctor

Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before surgery and between appointments.

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your preoperative appointments. Questions can include:

  • What kind of hernia do I have?
  • Why do I need a hernia repair? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
  • Which type of hernia repair procedure will I need?
  • How long will the surgery take? When will I go home?
  • What kind of restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home?
  • What medications will I need before and after the surgery?
  • How will you manage my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my hernia repair?

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after a hernia repair as smooth as possible.

How long will it take to recover?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until your vital signs are stable. You may have a sore throat if a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery. This is usually temporary, but tell your care team if you are uncomfortable.

You may be able to go home on the same day if you are recovering well. You may need to stay in the hospital longer if you cannot urinate on your own or you are having nausea and vomiting. In addition, a hospital stay of one day may be required for infants or if your hernia was incarcerated.

Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. Recovery time varies depending on the specific procedure, type of anesthesia, your general health, age, and other factors. Full recovery times range from two to six weeks.

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor and care team will manage your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Contact your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes in any way because it may be a sign of a complication.

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after a hernia repair. Call your doctor if you have questions or concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Bleeding
  • Bloating, swelling or pain in your abdomen or belly
  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing
  • Change in alertness, such as passing out, dizziness, unresponsiveness, or confusion
  • Fever. A low-grade fever (lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) is common for a couple of days after surgery and not necessarily a sign of a surgical infection. However, you should follow your doctor's specific instructions about when to call for a fever.
  • Inability to urinate or pass gas
  • No bowel movements for three days after surgery
  • Pain that is not controlled by your pain medication
  • Unexpected drainage, pus, redness or swelling of your incision
  • Tingling or numbness in the groin
  • Vomiting
  • Worsening pain or swelling of a testicle