Navigating Your Hernia Repair

A Guide to Repair and Recovery

You Have Been Diagnosed with a Hernia, Where Do You Go from Here?

First, take a deep breath… 

Being diagnosed with a hernia can be stressful, as you might feel unsure about what comes next. Just know you are not alone on this journey. The goal of this webpage is to help guide and educate you on how to have a collaborative discussion with your surgeon on your path forward.

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*This webpage is intended to provide general information about hernias and hernia repair procedures. This webpage is not intended to provide medical advice. You should consult with your physician or health care provider about how to manage your hernia.

What is a Hernia?

A hernia is when a part of your body, like a piece of intestine, pushes through a weak spot in the connective tissue. This can create a noticeable lump or bulge under your skin. Hernias often happen in the abdomen or groin area and may be caused by lifting heavy objects, coughing, chronic constipation, or previous surgical incision. Some people might feel pain or discomfort, while others might not feel anything at all. 

Are There Different Types of Hernias?

Yes, while most hernias occur in the groin area, they can develop in various locations within the abdomen. 

1. Hiatal Hernia
Occurs when part of the stomach pushes upward through the diaphragm, often causing heartburn or discomfort in the chest.
2. Ventral Hernia
Happens when tissue bulges through an opening in the muscles of the abdomen, often noticeable as a lump or swelling in the belly area.
3. Umbilical Hernia
When part of the intestine protrudes through the abdominal muscles near the belly button, common in babies but can occur in adults.
4. Inguinal Hernia
Occurs when tissue, such as part of the intestine, protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles, often causing a bulge in the groin area.
5. Femoral Hernia
Less common and occurs when fatty tissue or a part of the bowel pokes through into the groin at the top of the inner thigh, often causing a noticeable lump.

My Surgeon Has Recommended Surgery to Repair My Hernia

Good news! Nearly all hernias can be surgically repaired.

Hernia repair surgery is a common procedure that involves moving organs or tissue back into place and then repairing the opening or weakness in the connective tissue. While some hernias may be repaired with suture alone, most will require reinforcement with surgical mesh1.

How Will My Surgeon Perform My Hernia Repair?

If you and your doctor decide surgery is the right choice for you, there are three main types of surgery: 

Open Surgery

Your surgeon makes an incision near the hernia and the weak connective tissue is repaired. Open repair can be performed with or without surgical mesh.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Your surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdominal wall and passes surgical tools into the abdomen to repair the hernia. Laparoscopic hernia repair surgery can be performed with or without surgical mesh.

Robotic-assisted Surgery

Your surgeon will control a surgical robot to perform your procedure. Like laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery requires small incisions to repair your hernia. Robotic hernia repair surgery can be performed with or without surgical mesh.

My Surgeon Has Recommended
the Use of a Surgical Mesh

What is surgical mesh?

A surgical mesh is a medical implant used to support and strengthen the area where a hernia repair has occurred. Think of it like a patch that helps cover and reinforce the repaired hernia. Using a surgical mesh can lower the chances of your hernia returning. When considering hernia repair, your surgeon will talk to you about the different types of mesh available. Here’s a quick overview: 

Permanent Synthetic Mesh

This mesh is made from a plastic weave, similar to the material used in permanent stitches. It’s meant to stay in your body forever.

Resorbable Synthetic Mesh

Crafted from synthetic materials that the body can absorb, this mesh is like the resorbable stitches that eventually disappear on their own. Over time, your body will naturally break it down and absorb it.

Biologic Mesh

This type of mesh comes from human or animal tissue that’s been cleaned and made safe for implanting in humans. It contains natural materials, like collagen, which are also found in our bodies. This mesh is designed to integrate into, or become part of, the body’s own tissue over time.

Reinforced Tissue Matrix

Derived from animal tissue, this material has been cleaned and made safe just like the biologic mesh. It contains multiple layers of biologic material sewn together with a small amount of polymer (suture) that may be permanent or may absorb over time. The layers of biologic are also designed to integrate into, or become part of, the body’s own tissue over time.

*Your surgeon can provide guidance on the type of surgical mesh that is most appropriate for you.

What to Expect Before and
After Your Surgery

Before Surgery:

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Preoperative preparation may include blood work, medical evaluation, chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram depending on your age and medical condition. Your surgeon may ask you to take steps to prepare for your procedure, (e.g. lose weight, quit smoking) to give you the best chance of surgical success. 

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After your surgeon reviews with you the potential risks and benefits of the operation, you will need to provide written consent for surgery. 

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It is recommended that you shower the night before and the morning of the operation. You will likely be given special soap by your surgeon. 

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Do not eat or drink anything the night before or the day of your surgery, as doing so may result in your procedure being cancelled. If you take any regular medications and have been told to continue them, take them with small sips of water. 

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Plan to have someone drive you home afterward. You’ll want to take it easy after surgery, so you may need extra help at home.

After Surgery:

How long it takes you to recover after hernia surgery will vary based on factors such as: 

The size of your hernia.

The type of hernia surgery you had. Most people recover faster after minimally
invasive surgery than they do after open hernia surgery.

Your age and overall health.

Some hernia surgeries are outpatient procedures, and patients go home the same day. You may need to stay in the hospital if you have complications or if your hernia is large.

You may feel pain or soreness for the first 2 weeks. You can often manage it with over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen if your hernia was small or in the groin.

Before you go home your surgical staff will tell you how to care for your incision and yourself after hernia surgery.

Your surgeon will give you specific post-op instructions and advise you when you can resume strenuous exercise or return to work.

You will likely be able to resume light activity in the days after the operation.

Your surgeon will also tell you when they want to see you again to make sure you’re healing properly. Be sure to make a follow-up appointment within that time frame.

Learning From Your Surgeon

Questions to ask your surgeon to
encourage a collaborative discussion

What is a hernia?

What type of hernia do I have? 

What caused my hernia? 

Can my hernia be managed without surgery? 

How should I prepare for my surgery? 

What are the differences between open, laparoscopic, and robot-assisted surgery? 

What happens during my hernia repair surgery? 

Do you recommend surgical mesh for my procedure? Can you explain the pros and
cons of each? 

What am I likely to experience after
my procedure? 

Are there physical limitations I should be aware of after surgery? 

How long does it take to recover? 

What symptoms should I watch for
that may indicate an infection or
other post-operative complication? 

What should I do if my hernia comes back?