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Hernia (cont.)

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What are abdominal hernia symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of a hernia include pain or discomfort and a localized swelling somewhere on the surface of the abdomen or in the groin area. A hernia can also be painless and only appear as a bulging. The pain may be intermittent or constant and the swelling may decrease or be absent, depending on the amount of pressure in the abdomen. Constant, intense pain at a bulge site may indicate a medical emergency and should be evaluated immediately by a doctor.

What are the different types of abdominal hernias?

Epigastric, umbilical, incisional, lumbar, internal, inguinal, hiatal, and Spigelian hernias all occur at different sites of the abdomen in areas that are prone to anatomical or structural weakness. With the exception of internal hernias (within the abdomen), these hernias are commonly recognized as a lump or swelling and are often associated with pain or discomfort at the site. Internal hernias can be extremely difficult to diagnose until the intestine (bowel) has become trapped and obstructed because there is usually no external evidence of a lump.

How is an abdominal hernia repaired and treated?

A hernia repair requires surgery. There are several different procedures that can be used for fixing any specific type of hernia. In the open surgical approach, following appropriate anesthesia and sterilization of the surgical site, an incision is made over the area of the hernia and carried down carefully through the sequential tissue layers. The goal is to separate away all the normal tissue and define the margins of the hole or weakness. Once this has been achieved, the hole is then closed, usually by some combination of suture and a plastic mesh. When a repair is done by suture alone, the edges of the defect are pulled together, much like sewing a hole together in a piece of cloth. One of the possible complications of this approach is that it can put excessive strain on the surrounding tissues through which the sutures are passed. Over time, with normal bodily exertion, this strain can lead to the tearing of these stressed tissues and the formation of another hernia. The frequency of such recurrent hernias, especially in the groin region, has led to the development of many different methods of suturing the deep tissue layers in an attempt to provide better results.

In order to provide a secure repair and avoid the stress on the adjacent tissue caused by pulling the hole closed, an alternative technique was developed which bridges the hole or weakness with a piece of plastic-like mesh or screen material. The mesh is a permanent material and, when sewn to the margins of the defect, it allows the body's normal healing process to incorporate it into the local structures. Hernia repair with mesh has proved to be a very effective means of repair.

After the hernia repair is completed, the overlying tissues and skin are surgically closed, usually with absorbable sutures. More and more of hernia repairs are now being done using laparoscopic techniques (see below).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014


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