Q & A

Hernia Q & ABelow is a list of frequently asked questions about hernias and hernia repair.

Q. What is a hernia?

A. A hernia is a protrusion of an organ or tissue through an abnormal opening in the body. Most hernias occur when a piece of intestine slips through a weakness in the abdominal wall, creating a bulge you can see and feel. Hernias can develop around the navel, in the groin, or any place where you may have had a surgical incision. Some hernias are present at birth; others develop slowly over a period of months or years. Hernias can also come on quite suddenly.
To learn about different types of hernias click here: Types of Hernias

Q. How can you prevent a hernia?
A. The risk of hernia can be minimized, but hernias cannot be prevented. In fact, hernias may be present at birth.

Q. What are the risk factors associated with hernias?
A. Age, smoking and obesity are three of the primary risk factors for developing hernias. Other factors include: weak and/or injured muscles, previous surgical incisions, pregnancy, lifting and straining.

Q. Why does a hernia hurt?
A. The discomfort you feel - especially when you cough, lift something heavy, or stand for a long time - comes from the constant pressure of tissue pushing its way through the weakened spot in your body. As more tissue pushes through the weakened area, the feeling of pressure increases. A hernia that develops or worsens quickly can produce a sudden intense pain as it enlarges.

Q. Who gets hernias?
A. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately five million Americans have hernias. Hernias in the groin area (inguinal hernias) are most common in men, primarily because of the unsupported space left in the groin after the testicles descend into the scrotum during development. Hernias in the femoral area, at the top of the thigh, occur most often in women. They commonly result from pregnancy and childbirth. Children can also suffer from hernias. Some people also develop hernias at the site of previous surgical incisions, or in the area of the navel.

Q. What are the symptoms of a hernia?
A. A hernia can often be both seen and felt. You may notice it as a lump in your abdomen or groin that may or may not disappear when you lay down or press on it. You may also be aware of a dull aching sensation that becomes more pronounced when you are active. The bulge may get bigger over time.

Q. What causes a hernia?
A. It is not uncommon for someone to be born with a weakness in their abdominal wall. The weakness can also occur over time or from a previous surgical incision. Pressure from organs or tissue pushing on the weakness can cause a hernia. Age, smoking and obesity can also contribute to weakened tissue.

Q. How is a hernia diagnosed?
A. Your physician will be able to evaluate your condition, primarily with a physical examination, and determine whether or not you have a hernia. Your physician will then refer you to consult with a surgeon.

Q. Do I have to see a surgeon or will my hernia go away?
A. An untreated hernia will not get better on its own, although it may not get worse for months or even years. A hernia that can be easily pushed back in, or is reducible, is generally not an immediate danger to your health, although it can be painful. A reducible hernia should be evaluated by your physician. A non-reducible hernia, however, can become life threatening if part of the intestine gets trapped (incarcerated or strangulated) in the opening. This is dangerous because blood flow to the trapped tissue is restricted and can damage the tissue.

Q. What can I do to feel better?
A. While only your physician can advise you, limiting activity or eliminating excess weight may provide temporary relief. Wearing a truss or binder has also offered temporary relief. The only cure, however, is surgery. There are two reasons for hernia surgery: to prevent or correct a dangerous strangulated hernia, and to eliminate the pain or discomfort that may be limiting your daily activities. Although there are always risks and side effects associated with surgery, today's surgical techniques provide patients with treatment options that offer minimal post-operative discomfort, speedy recovery and lasting relief.
For more information see Treatment Options

Q. Is surgery for me?
A. Whether you should have surgery is a question only your physician can help you answer. Your physician can tell you more about your condition and treatment options. There is no need to suffer in silence due to fears of surgery and pain. Your doctor is there to help and offer simple and innovative options to help you feel your best.

Q. How long will the surgical procedure take?
A. Your physician will walk you though what to expect once the right surgical approach for your specific situation is determined. Newer techniques, like the ones outlined on this website, can take only 25 minutes on average and offer the advantage of being performed on an outpatient basis with the option for local anesthesia.

Q. How soon after surgery can I go home?
A. Since hernia surgery is, for the most part, an outpatient procedure, most patients are able to go home anywhere from one to two hours after the surgery. However, some patients may require hospitalization.

Q. What are the chances my hernia will come back?
A. If your surgeon utilizes one of the mesh techniques offered on this website, the chance that your hernia will return is less than one percent! The chance of recurrence is greater if the repair is performed with a non-mesh Tissue-to-Tissue technique.
For more information, go to Treatment Options

Q. What about complications?
A. Like any surgery, there is always a chance for complications, like infection or hernia recurrence. Your physician will discuss these with you prior to surgery.

Q. Is it possible for a child to have a hernia? How is it treated?
A. Yes. Children can be born with hernias. They can be repaired by reducing the hernia and suturing the hole in the tissue back together. You should consult with your pediatrician.


Hundreds of thousands of hernia repair operations are performed each year both with and without surgical mesh, and patients generally recover quickly and do well after surgery. However, all surgical procedures are associated with some risk. Speak to your surgeon prior to surgery about possible risks and complications. Some of the possible complications include adverse reactions to the mesh, adhesions (bands of scar-like tissue) and injuries to nearby organs, nerves or blood vessels. Other complications of hernia repair can occur with or without the mesh, including infection, chronic pain and hernia recurrence.

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