Hernia Types: Incisional Hernias

Hernia Info Authors

About Incisional Hernias

An incisional hernia appears at, or at close proximity to, a surgical incision through which an intestine, organ, or other tissue protrudes.1,2 Incisional hernias most likely occur within 3-6 months post-surgery, but can happen at any time.2 Certain factors may increase your risk of developing an incisional hernia—like premature physical activity after surgery.


Common Symptoms of Incisional Hernias2

Often visible when you stand up, cough, or strain your muscles, incisional hernias typically create a bulge near an incision site. They may also cause:

  • Constipation and/or thin, narrow stool
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain near the bulge
  • Quickened heart rate
  • Fever

Potential Causes and Risk Factors of Incisional Hernias

Incisional hernias occur when the surgical cut in your abdominal wall doesn’t close or heal after surgery. This can cause your abdominal muscles to weaken and allow tissue and organ to bulge through.1

Several risk factors may increase your chances of developing an incisional hernia after surgery, including:2

  • Participating in excessive/premature physical activity 
  • Gaining considerable weight
  • An increase in abdominal pressure
  • Becoming pregnant
  • Wound infection
  • Pre-existing health conditions
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications 

Ways to Diagnose Incisional Hernias3

Hernia Pain

To identify if you have an incisional hernia, your healthcare provider will review your medical and surgical history and provide a physical exam where they will check your abdominal area. You may be asked to stand, strain, or cough to cause the hernia to bulge. Your doctor may order imaging tests to help assist in the diagnosis using:

  • Ultrasounds
  • Computer tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans

Typical Treatments for Incisional Hernias2

Specific treatment for an incisional hernia will be determined by your doctor and depends on multiple factors including your general health, anatomy, extent and location of the hernia, and desired level of future physical activity. The treatment will also depend on whether the hernia has negatively affected the results of the original surgery—potentially requiring additional procedures before the hernia can be closed.

Surgical Treatment

There are three primary surgical options for incisional hernia repair: open, laparoscopic, and robotic. The appropriate type of surgery for you may depend on the size, severity, and location of your hernia. Ask your doctor about which option is right for you.

  • Open Surgery: As the traditional surgical method, an open surgical procedure involves making a large incision over the area of the hernia. The hernia bulge is returned to its correct position and a mesh is often placed to help strengthen and support the weakened area before closing up the incision.

  • Laparoscopic Surgery: A surgeon will use several small, ‘key-hole’ sized incisions during laparoscopic surgery. Instruments, such as a camera, are then inserted through the incisions to perform the operation.

  • Robotic Surgery: Similar to laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery uses several smaller incisions. The surgeon will perform the operation from a console located in the operating room.

Learn more about surgical techniques here.

What Are the Next Steps to Treating an Incisional Hernia?

If you have symptoms of an incisional hernia, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to have it diagnosed and/or to rule out other possible causes of pain. 


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.healthline.com/health/incisional-hernia#causes
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hernias/incisional-hernia
  3. https://www.brighamandwomens.org/surgery/general-and-gastrointestinal-surgery/hernia/incisional-hernia#:~:text=How%20are%20incisional%20hernias%20diagnosed,bulge%20that%20indicates%20a%20hernia


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.