When to Consider Surgical Repair for a Hernia

When you’ve been diagnosed with a hernia, you may have to decide whether surgery is your best option. While such a decision isn’t always easy, researching the topic can help you feel confident with your choice.

You can also talk to your doctor who may refer you to a surgeon that specializes in hernias. In this article, we’ve compiled important information that may help you find some peace of mind.

In general, all hernias should be repaired to relieve present or future symptoms, and to prevent serious complications.  So, what happens if you’re advised to have surgery? Don’t let the fact that you may not yet be suffering from any serious symptoms make you unsure or worried. Your doctor may surprise you by telling you that you can wait before making a final decision, especially if the hernia doesn’t presently pose a serious health threat.

There are even instances when surgery may be too risky to perform, such as if you’re already being treated for cancer, or have serious health issues. Some medical conditions put such a strain on the body that undergoing surgery (except in emergencies) may not be a good option.

The bottom line is that every case is different. Your job is to get accurate, up-to-date information so that you can make the best possible choice for your unique situation.


What Are the Benefits?

Of course, there are many benefits for having your hernia surgically repaired. Beyond the peace of mind of knowing that your hernia won’t get worse and your symptoms will go away, there are many problems that you can avoid.

First, having surgery will significantly relieve the heaviness, swelling, discomfort, and nausea that hernias cause.  Second, it will prevent worsening of these problems that could lead to an entrapped or strangulated hernia that would need emergency repair.  Most patients say that they feel better and have improved function in their activities after hernia surgery.


What Are the Risk/Side Effects?

Unfortunately, there is no such a thing as a risk-free medical procedure. Nevertheless, having surgery today is very safe. The rate of successful repair is over 95%, and the risk of complications or hernia recurrence is low – usually less than 5%.  The risk of infection is very low, less than 1%.  While most surgical procedures go smoothly, some of the complications that may arise include:

  • The hernia may return after surgery (hernia recurrence); the chance of this happening is greatly reduced when a mesh reinforcement implant is used.
  • You can have a reaction to the anesthesia.
  • There can be bleeding or an infection of the surgical site that might need another procedure.
  • Pain can be present after the area has healed and require a nerve block to be relieved.
  • The cord that transports sperm may become damaged, thus affecting fertility in men.
  • The intestines, bladder or other organs/tissue may become damaged (especially if surgery is delayed for too long).
  • You may have soreness and discomfort for a while after the procedure. In general, laparoscopic surgery or MIS should involve less pain than open operations.


Can I Safely Delay Having Surgery?

In some cases, you can put off having surgery, but only your surgeon can safely and accurately determine if this is a good idea.  Some reasons why you might postpone having surgery include:

  • If the hernia is still relatively small and isn’t causing any significant symptoms.  In this case, it’s important that your surgeon determines that it doesn’t pose a high risk for strangulation while you are waiting.
  • If you are presently on blood thinners that can’t be stopped at this time, even for surgery.
  • If you are suffering from a medical problem that precludes surgery of any kind.
  • If you are presently suffering from any major infection, especially if it might infect any material (e.g., mesh) used to repair the hernia.


What Could Happen If I Delay Getting Surgery?

Even if the hernia isn’t presently causing symptoms, you may slowly be making the problem worse. At the very least, the hernia will tend to keep growing and eventually cause symptoms.  It will also get harder to repair as it grows.  Unfortunately, the bigger the hernia becomes the more difficult it is to fix surgically.

In general, surgeons recommend having a hernia taken care of in the early stages, before they become cumbersome and medically challenging to treat. Is the hernia, for example, preventing you from getting a reasonable amount of exercise or restricting your activities? Is it causing pain, or difficulty going to the bathroom?  Is it causing nausea? These are warning signs that should not be ignored.

Some of the things that can complicate a hernia by weakening the abdominal wall or increasing the pressure inside the abdomen include:

  • Chronic, chest-shaking coughing
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Chronic constipation that may lead to straining
  • An enlarged prostate
  • Being overweight
  • Bad nutrition
  • Smoking

When Do I Need to Have an Emergency Hernia Repair?

One of the reasons surgeons prefer to repair a hernia early is so that serious complications can be avoided. These may include intestinal tissue getting trapped after it is pushed outside of its usual cavity. This is called “incarceration.”

If such “trapping” leads to blood being blocked from reaching the tissue, necrosis and gangrene can develop. This form of escalation is called “strangulation.” Hernia strangulation left untreated can be fatal.

On a lighter note, hernia surgery can help relieve the many unpleasant symptoms that accompany a hernia, including frequent discomfort, pain, and activity restriction. Hernias can’t heal on their own, and can only be repaired with surgery.

Postponing surgery won’t stop the abdominal wall from getting weaker; nor will it prevent the hernia from growing or getting worse. Ultimately, delay in repair can lead to a possible emergency procedure and hospital stay.


Key Points to Remember

  • Hernias can’t heal on their own, and always require surgery for repair.
  • You may in some circumstances be able to delay surgery, but only after medically advised that this option won’t put you at serious increased risk.
  • As the tissue holding back the hernia weakens, hernias tend to get bigger and worsen in severity over time.
  • Activity restriction may minimize symptoms, but won’t reduce the overall risk of an emergency operation.
  • Emergency surgery is sometimes necessary, especially if complications have arisen, such as severe pain or strangulation.
  • Trusses and corsets often don’t do more than delay the inevitable and downplay the symptoms; don’t depend on these things, especially without consulting a doctor.
  • Some people have medical conditions that make surgery more risky than observation.  This should always be discussed with your surgeon before deciding not to have a hernia repaired.


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.