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
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.
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:
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):
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 has been written and reviewed with the guidance of a medical health professional for informational and educational purposes only. It does not substitute for medical advice. If in doubt, always consult your doctor.