Hernia Treatment: Know Your Options

Hernia Info Authors

Think You May Have a Hernia?

A hernia occurs when an organ or fatty tissue squeezes through a weak spot in surrounding muscle or connective tissue. They often occur in weaker areas—like the abdominal wall or groin. 

Most hernias are external and often create a bulge that you can see. But a hernia can also be internal, meaning it remains inside the body and may be unnoticeable. While some hernias are asymptomatic and may not require immediate medical attention, over 1 million Americans every year receive a hernia repair surgery.1,2 And an estimated 1 in 4 men and 1 in 50 women will require surgery for an inguinal hernia (inner groin) during their lifetime.3

Learn about the hernia treatment options so you can be better prepared when speaking with your doctor.

Hernia Treatment Options: Non-Surgical Treatment4

It’s important to know that hernias will not heal on their own—surgery is required to repair a hernia. While a hernia will not repair itself or go away on its own, there are few times where it’s reasonable to adopt a “watchful waiting” approach, such as when the hernia is small in size and not growing, asymptomatic, and easily goes back in.

If you decide with your doctor on a non-surgical watch-and-wait approach, it’s important to avoid doing activities that may aggravate the hernia such as heavy lifting, straining, or intense physical workouts. Although rare, it is also possible for a hernia to become incarcerated or strangulated over time if it is not treated—which can cause intestinal blockage or a cutoff of blood supply requiring emergency surgery. To decide what’s best for you, discuss the benefits and risks of both non-surgical and surgical treatment options with your doctor.

Hernia Treatment Options: Surgical Treatment

While more traditional hernia repair methods usually consisted of a permanent synthetic mesh used in an open repair, there are many effective and innovative surgical techniques and mesh options for treating a hernia today. Innovations in minimally invasive surgical techniques like laparoscopic and robotic repairs may allow for less pain, fewer complications, and shorter postoperative recovery times.2

  • Open Repair: In an open repair, an incision is made at the site of the hernia. The mesh is placed between layers of muscle for a durable repair.5 Depending on your surgical history, such as if a previous surgery has caused scar tissue, doctors may opt for this more traditional approach.
  • Laparoscopic Repair: Laparoscopy is a type of minimally invasive surgery that only requires a small ‘keyhole’ incision. Laparoscopic repairs use a small camera and specialized minimally invasive tools for accuracy. Patients may experience a faster recovery following laparoscopic repair compared to an open surgery.6
  • Robotic Repair: Similar to laparoscopic repair, a robotic hernia repair is a minimally invasive surgery requiring small incisions where the surgeon controls the procedure from a specialized robotic console.6 Patients may also experience a faster recovery following robotic surgery compared to an open surgery.7

Hernia Mesh Options

Surgeons often use surgical mesh to strengthen a hernia repair and reduce the rate of recurrence. The use of mesh to repair a hernia has also been shown to improve patient outcomes through decreased operative time and minimized recovery time.1 Both laparoscopic and robotic hernia repair techniques can be performed using a surgical mesh.

In addition to advancements in surgical technologies, innovations in mesh are enabling new pathways for repair techniques as well. For patients seeking an alternative to synthetic mesh, long-term bioabsorbable mesh works naturally with your body to rebuild tissue.

  • Synthetic Mesh: Synthetic meshes made from plastic materials (e.g., polypropylene, polyester, etc.) are permanent implants used to repair hernias. These non-absorbable meshes remain in the body to provide support to the site of the repair and are considered a more traditional approach.8,9
  • Bioabsorbable Mesh: Bioabsorbable (or “resorbable”) mesh is a fully absorbable mesh made of natural biomaterials. The mesh is designed to degrade over time leaving new tissue growth to support the site of the repair.9
  • Biological Graft: A biological graft is an implant derived from animal or human tissue. It is most often used in complicated hernia repair procedures. Similar to bioabsorbable mesh, biologic grafts are intended to degrade completely over time to continue supporting the repair even after the graft dissolves.9

Potential Complications From Use of Surgical Mesh1

Despite reduced rates of recurrence, there are situations where the use of certain surgical mesh may not be recommended or can lead to complications following hernia repair. The most typical complications include:

  • Pain, infection, inflammation
  • Hernia recurrence
  • Adhesion
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Mesh migration
  • Mesh shrinkage (contraction)

Be sure to talk to your doctor about your specific circumstances to determine the best options or alternatives for hernia repair.

Complications and Risks of Hernia Surgery10

Medical procedures are not without their potential for complications. Hernia surgery is no different. Risks of hernia surgery may include (but are not limited to):

  • Bruising, infection, bleeding, and/or pain at the incision site
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Accumulation of fluid (seroma) or swelling around the incision
  • Chronic pain (long-term risk)
  • Mesh migration (or movement)
  • Chance of the hernia coming back (recurrence)
  • Injury to blood vessels or nearby organs
  • Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis

More often than not, the benefits of hernia surgery outweigh the risks. Talk to your doctor about the likelihood of complications and what you can do to avoid them.

Hernia Recurrence Rates11

The likelihood of a hernia recurrence is dependent on a handful of factors, including: type, size, and location of the hernia, surgical technique (open, laparoscopic, robotic), treatment option (mesh or no mesh), patient risk factors, and/or whether the hernia was previously repaired.

On average, recurrence rates typically vary from one to up to 20 percent—20 percent being for the most complex cases.10 A strong repair can reduce the rate of hernia recurrence. Depending on the size and location of your hernia, your doctor may recommend a hernia repair with or without mesh.

If left untreated, hernias may lead to more serious complications that turn into medical emergencies and require immediate attention or surgery. Don’t let this happen to you. Check out our FAQ page to learn more about hernias and be sure to discuss your options with your doctor to see what may be right for you.



The guidance provided in this article follows general rules that should be discussed with your doctor. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not substitute for medical advice. If in doubt, always consult your doctor.

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  1. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/implants-and-prosthetics/hernia-surgical-mesh-implants
  2. https://www.trihealth.com/dailyhealthwire/living-well/health-tips/what-to-know-about-hernias-and-hernia-repair
  3. Beadles CA, Meagher AD, Charles AG. Trends in Emergent Hernia Repair in the United States. JAMA Surg. 2015;150(3):194-200.
  4. https://scottishhernia.com/2018/06/23/nonoperative-watchful-waiting-management-inguinal-hernia/
  5. New York Presbyterian, New, less-invasive techniques for hernia repair. https://www.nyp.org/patients-and-visitors/advances-consumers/issues/new-less-invasive-techniques-for-hernia-repair
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17968-robotic-surgery-for-hernia-repair
  7. Healthwise Staff, Laparoscopic Inguinal Hernia Repair, University of Michigan Health. April 15, 2020.
  8. Medstar Health, Mesh and No Mesh Hernia Repair. May 26 2021.
  9. Fitzgerald, Kumar, Biologic versus Synthetic Mesh Reinforcement: What are the Pros and Cons? US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. December 27, 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4477030/
  10. https://www.froedtert.com/hernia-surgery/outcomes
  11. https://www.nychernia.com/what-happens-if-a-hernia-is-left-untreated/


This site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Only your physician can diagnose and appropriately treat your symptoms. BD does not recommend the use of any particular physician or team of physicians. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice regarding who should be part of your hernia repair team.