Abdominal Hernias: What You Should Know
Hernias are named based on their location and history of previous surgery. An abdominal hernia can develop in an area of the abdominal wall that is weak or ruptured. When this occurs, the tissues (and possibly organs) that are normally held in place by the abdominal wall now protrude or bulge though the weakened region.
What are the Symptoms of Abdominal Hernias?
Symptoms of abdominal hernias vary. Usually, a bulge is noticed somewhere on the trunk of the body. This bulge may have associated pain or a pulling sensation, especially with exertion.
Abdominal wall hernias can protrude outward and form a sac. Tissues and organs can become trapped in this sac, becoming very painful and dangerous if the organ (usually intestine) or tissue cannot return inside the abdominal cavity.
Signs and symptoms that should prompt expeditious evaluation by a medical provider include: pain or redness at the hernia bulge, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, constipation, abdominal distention or bloating. In general, all hernias should be evaluated by a surgeon. The decision for surgery and type of surgery will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Risk factors for developing a hernia include: smoking, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, pregnancy, peritoneal dialysis and previous surgery. These same risk factors also increase the possibility of hernia recurrence.
How are Abdominal Hernias Treated?
Hernias are usually diagnosed on physical exam by a doctor, nurse or physician assistant. During this exam, the patient will likely be instructed to cough or bear down while the medical provider presses on the area being examined.
Hernias are generally repaired using “open” or “laparoscopic” surgery. With open surgery, an incision is made near the hernia where the tissue is either returned to or removed from the abdominal cavity, depending on how healthy it is. After return or removal, the tissues of the abdominal wall are sewn back together, in many cases with a mesh patch that reinforces the repair and helps to decrease the chance or reoccurrence.
In laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes several small incisions. Long instruments and a camera are inserted through these incisions and the surgery is performed while watching the images on a TV monitor. A mesh patch can also be placed with this type of surgery.
If you believe that you may be suffering from an abdominal hernia, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a doctor at www.ochsner.org or by calling 504-290-0833.