Know What to Expect After Hernia Surgery

The road to recovery typically begins right away after surgery. Your recovery will be unique to your situation and the complexity of your procedure. Learn more about the typical recovery times and expectations below.

                          

                          

The Typical ‘Dos and Don'ts’ Post-hernia Repair

Always talk to your doctor about what activities you can do, and those you should avoid, after hernia surgery. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to call your doctor. Below are some instructions your doctor may provide after a hernia repair surgery:1,2,3

Do:

  • Follow all instructions provided by your doctor, including taking medications prescribed. 
  • Stay well hydrated and maintain a healthy digestive regimen to avoid constipation (take stool softeners if prescribed by your doctor). 
  • Stay active and take short walks without over-exerting yourself. 
  • Get enough rest to assist in recovery, as you will likely become tired more easily after surgery. 
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes that do not rub your incision.
  • Be sure to care for the incision as described by your doctor. 

 

Read About the Road to Recovery

Do not:

  • Lift heavy items – follow specific recommendations from your doctor regarding weight restrictions and their duration. 
  • Submerge your incision in water such as a bath, swimming pool, or hot tub until your doctor gives permission. 
  • Engage in strenuous exercise until your doctor tells you it is okay. 
  • Drive until your doctor says it is okay.
     

Read About Hernia Lifestyle Changes

Frequently Asked Questions

Taking the necessary precautions after hernia surgery can assist in a full recovery to get you back to the activities you love. Each patient will have a different post-operative recovery and activity level. Your doctor will provide guidelines on the activities you can do, and those you should avoid, after hernia surgery. Always call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. See frequently asked questions below and read more about guidelines for hernia recovery by visiting our blog.
 

Read the Recovery From Hernia Surgery Blog

A hernia repair is generally an outpatient surgery. This means that most patients can go home on the same day as their operation, though some may have to stay in the hospital for a few days.

Returning to an active lifestyle is often possible for most patients, but there are several guidelines your doctor may have you follow to help prevent a future hernia. Taking the necessary precautions after hernia surgery can assist in a full recovery to get you back to the activities you love. Each patient will have a different post-operative recovery and activity level. Be sure to check with your doctor to discuss your own risks and limitations after surgery.

Each patient will have a different post-operative recovery and activity level. Talk to your doctor about the activities you can do, and those you should avoid, after hernia surgery. Below are some things hernia repair patients typically do during the first few days post-surgery: 

  • Arrange for someone to drive you around.  
  • Get plenty of rest and avoid lifting anything heavy for at least two weeks. 
  • If you have to cough, sneeze, or move, apply mild pressure to the site beforehand. 
  • Ask your doctor when you can shower after you get home. You may need to wait 48 hours after your surgery. 

As with any surgery, you will experience some pain and discomfort after surgery. This pain is often well-managed with over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Some doctors may prescribe other medicines, such as opioids, and will direct you how and when to take these.

Your doctor or healthcare team will likely give you instructions that may include: 

  • Wash the area daily with warm water and soap. 
  • Pat the area dry; never rub or handle vigorously as you may reopen the wound. 
  • You may cover the incision with a gauze bandage, which should be changed daily (if surgical tape is on the incision, leave it on for one week or until it falls off.) 
  • If you have dissolvable stitches in the incision, your body will absorb these over time. Your doctor can advise you about this process. 
  • If you have staples closing the incision, your doctor will remove them at your follow-up appointment. 

Your doctor will provide a recommended timeline for your own individual situation and condition depending on your line of work. For example, manual laborers may require more time off than those with a desk job.

Recovery varies from person to person, but strenuous activity should be avoided for 4-6 weeks.4 Hernia recovery requires patience.

Some common complications are: 

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Pain at the incision site 
  • Wound infection 
  • Swelling or a fluid around the incision  
  • Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis  
  • Hernia recurrence (the hernia returns)

The recurrence rates vary by type of hernia, complexity, risk factors and technique selection. Mesh-based repairs have been shown to provide the lowest recurrence rates.5

Symptoms to Watch Out For

Seek emergency assistance immediately if you experience shortness of breath, fever, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, an incision that looks infected, feelings of numbness in your limbs, an increase in pain, or other concerning symptoms.

Always call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

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