Hernias are more common than most people realize. In fact, anyone can develop a hernia at any time no matter what the sex or age. Most hernias develop due to a weakness in the wall of the abdominal cavity (mostly made of muscles and sheets of connective tissue). Those weaknesses can develop as a result of birth defects (i.e., “congenital”), traumatic injury, because of previous surgeries, or due to some sort of disease or infection. Most hernias develop over time because of naturally occurring weak points in the structure of the abdominal wall.
There are certain behaviors that can influence the chances of developing a hernia. For example, being in good physical shape, not being overweight, and not abusing things like alcohol and cigarettes can help to protect you. By the same token, over-exerting yourself, lifting too much weight, chronic straining from constipation, and obesity can also make you more vulnerable to hernias.
After a patient is diagnosed with a hernia the advice generally given is to have the defect fixed with surgery. This is considered the best option since, by having the hernia repaired, such problems such as pain, entrapment (incarceration), and strangulation can be avoided. Also, it’s a lot easier to repair a small, recently developed hernia than one that’s gotten very big or been around long enough to create internal scarring.
If the discomfort and pain have gotten worse, then that’s a dependable warning sign that should prompt a patient to seek repair. If you wait until the hernia is trapped and can’t be reduced, then the chance for strangulation has greatly increased; at that point, it will no longer be a matter of choice but rather an immediate ER visit and urgent surgery.
Incarceration may then lead to strangulation and, if nothing is done at that point, it could be life-threatening. This situation means that the intestines trapped within the hernia have been cut off from their blood supply and will soon die, making a person extremely ill or causing death.
If you have been diagnosed with a hernia, you should usually have it repaired. At this point, you need to be asking the right questions, including the four questions posed below. Use the answers given to make the best possible decision for your unique but rather important personal situation.
What is the Preferred Method to Treat a Hernia?
Hernias are repaired by a surgical procedure in which the abdominal wall is restored to normal and reinforced. The contents of the hernia (intestines and fatty tissues) are freed and returned to the abdominal cavity. No matter the technique chosen for repair, modern hernia surgery is safe and highly effective.
Laparoscopic and Robotic vs. Open Hernia Surgery
Both types of surgeries are considered safe and effective. The open repair approach is, of course, older and better established, but the less invasive methods to surgery, such as the types that use smaller incision technologies, now provide a legitimate and sometimes preferred option.
An open repair usually involves an incision directly overlying the site of the hernia. Often, it is preferred in situations where internal scarring might be present since this is easier and safer to handle through a larger incision. A minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic approach can be beneficial in allowing a faster recovery with less pain. This technique can be used for recurrent hernias as well but is not as well suited for situations involving complicated dissection of scar tissues.
Why is Mesh, a Foreign Body, Used for Hernia Repair?
You might be wondering why mesh is often used to repair a hernia. Most areas of a hernia involve weakened tissues that would tend to fail after repair without substantial reinforcement. Prosthetic mesh makes it possible for normal body tissue to grow into and around the fabric of the sterile mesh. These meshes, by the way, are made of unique synthetic fibers that aren’t rejected by the body, aren’t likely to lead to an infection and tend to strengthen significantly the otherwise weak tissue.
Mesh Materials Are Getting Better & Better!
Over the years the mesh that is used to repair hernias has improved both in quality and durability. In fact, there are mesh materials available today that are strong in spite of also being very thin; they can also be very pliable, durable and made with pores that allow normal body tissue to grow easily into and around the mesh. Mesh not only strengthens tissue, it also helps it to heal more uniformly.
Mesh Allergies—Some Basic Facts
Unfortunately, the mesh that is inserted into the repaired site of a hernia is to the human body a “foreign object.” The human body can vary with its reaction to foreign objects. Even with the use of mesh material that is both inert and sterile, there can be instances when someone’s body may reject the mesh or have an allergic reaction to it. Also, only a very few bacteria present on the mesh either at the time of surgery or finding their way to the surgical site through the bloodstream before full healing can cause an infection.
Such problems usually require the mesh graft to be removed with another operation, and possible repair of the hernia again after the area has fully healed. The good news is that most people don’t have such an allergic reaction when mesh is used, and the risk of infection in hernia repair is less than 1%.
Why Do People get Recurrent Hernias?
Why is it people get recurrent hernias? There probably isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Although there is recurrence for hernias repaired surgically, it is far from the norm. In fact, the recurrence rate is only about 1% to 4%; recurrence isn’t likely to happen—or, rather, the odds are against it.
If it does happen, some of the reasons for them may include infection, problems during surgery, poor healing due to patient factors like diabetes or smoking, and overstressing the area before it has had proper time to heal with exercise or straining.
What, if Anything, Can be Done to Avoid the Hernia From Coming Back / Recurring?
There are many things that people who have undergone hernia surgery can do to prevent hernia recurrence— Here are some basic guidelines and suggestions:
- Make sure and avoid any lifting or straining until the repair has fully healed. This may take up to 6 weeks for the area to have full strength. If you strain or pull on the area excessively with lifting, running, or jumping; the mesh and internal sutures can pull loose and cause pain and a recurrent hernia.
- Ask your surgeon if he/she can use a larger mesh than usual—in theory, the larger the mesh, the more support is should provide against hernia recurrence.
- Make sure that your surgeon has extensive experience and a good reputation performing hernia repairs; there is nothing like a proven track record in anything. It’s a wonderful thing when you hire people that know what they’re doing, can provide evidence of their well-established success and are familiar with the latest methods and techniques in hernia repair surgery.
- Follow the advice of your surgeon strictly after the operation. If you take the proper precautions, the wound will heal correctly, and your body will be better equipped, next time, to deal with the original conditions that led to the hernia.
Why Choose The Surgery Group?
We remain committed to providing our patients with innovative, safe alternatives to open surgery. However, there are times when open surgery is warranted, and minimally invasive surgery is not an option. In cases such as these, our board-certified surgeons are prepared to perform conventional surgery and provide each patient with the compassionate, high-quality, personalized care they deserve.
OUR SURGEONS ARE NOT DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY ASSOCIATED WITH ANY HOSPITAL. As such, we can recommend the best place for your Surgery to be done. Our only interest is resolution of your health problem in the safest and easiest way. Any surgeon who works for a hospital is bound by the administrative policies dictated by that hospital which can affect your care. These surgeons may be encouraged to use techniques or consultants or diagnostic tests which benefit the hospital system and are not in the best interests of the patient.
Our surgeons are continually maintaining their skills and expertise. This is accomplished by keeping up with the latest surgical techniques and technological advancements in our field. Whether we are performing an open surgery, a minimally invasive procedure or a robot-assisted surgery, our expert surgeons can perform complex and delicate procedures with unmatched precision.
If you need surgical intervention for any of the conditions or diseases listed above, contact our office today, at 850-444-4777, to schedule an initial consultation with one of our Board-Certified Surgeons. We proudly serve Southwest Alabama (the Gulf Coast), Northwest Florida, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Florida Panhandle, Milton, Foley, Atmore, Brewton and Santa Rosa County.