Treatment Options

treatment optionsThe only way to effectively treat a hernia and provide lasting relief is to have it surgically repaired. Hernia repair is one of the most common types of surgery performed in the U.S. To learn about different types of hernias go to: All About Hernias > Types of Hernias

A hernia can be repaired by a general surgeon via two different surgical methods: open surgery and laparoscopic surgery.

  • Open surgery is what people typically think of when they think about surgery. An incision is made in the skin near the bulge and the surgeon will repair the hernia through the incision. 
  • Laparoscopic surgery is also referred to as "minimally invasive surgery". During this type of surgery, two to four small incisions are made in the abdomen so that instruments and a camera can be inserted. The abdomen is then inflated with gas to give the surgeon space to work inside the patient. The camera has a light that gives the surgeon a view from the inside. The surgeon uses specialized instruments and views the surgical site on a television screen that is connected to the camera. Once the hernia is repaired, the gas is released and the abdomen returns to normal. Laparoscopic surgery is newer than open surgery.

In both methods, the hernia is identified and placed back into the abdomen. The weak tissue is then reinforced, most often with a synthetic mesh, to prevent the hernia from pushing through the weak spot again. The mesh acts like a patch on a hole in a tire.

The use of mesh gives patients a "tension-free" repair, because the mesh provides a bridge to connect the gap in the tissue with few sutures instead of pulling the tissue together with multiple sutures. This method also helps alleviate pain. The mesh is well accepted by the body and acts like scaffolding to encourage the growth of healthy tissue.

Surgeons today perform a variety of proven techniques to repair hernias that offer minimal post-operative discomfort and speedy recoveries. It is important that you discuss with your surgeon the type of repair method that is right for you. As every patient is different, your surgeon will also advise you on activity levels during your recovery. For information on treatment options for your specific hernia type, visit one of the following pages:

Abdominal Hernias: Treatment Options
Incisional Hernias: Treatment Options
Umbilical Hernias: Treatment Options
Inguinal Hernias: Treatment Options
Femoral Hernias: Treatment Options
Hiatal Hernias: Treatment Options

Alternatives to surgery
A hernia will not go away with exercise, weight loss or medicine. Some patients find that wearing a hernia belt or truss helps ease discomfort, but will not help your hernia go away. Only surgery provides a permanent solution.

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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