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