What is an abdominal hernia?

A hernia is a general term that refers to a protrusion of a body tissue through a wall of a cavity in which it is normally contained. An abdominal hernia is an opening or weakness in the muscular structure of the wall of the abdomen. The peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) protrudes through the opening and this defect causes a bulging of the abdominal wall.

Any activity that increases intra-abdominal pressure can worsen a hernia; examples of such activities are lifting, coughing or even straining to have a bowel movement.

When the lining protrudes it can contain intra-abdominal contents such as the intestines and omentum (the layer of fat that covers abdominal organs). Serious complications from a hernia can result from the trapping of tissues in the hernia – a process called incarceration. The treatment of an incarceration usually involves surgery. About 10 percent of the population will have an abdominal hernia during their lifetime with the majority of abdominal hernias occurring in males.

Where are abdominal hernias located?

The most common location for hernias is the groin (or inguinal) area. Several different types of hernia may occur and frequently coexist in the groin area. These include indirect, direct and femoral hernias, which are defined by the location of the opening of the hernia from the abdomen to the groin. Another type of hernia, called a ventral hernia, occurs in the midline of the abdomen, usually above the navel (umbilicus). This type of hernia is usually painless. Hernias can also occur within the navel (umbilical hernia).

What are abdominal hernia symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of a hernia include pain or discomfort and a localised swelling somewhere on the surface of the abdomen or in the groin area. A hernia can also be painless and only appear as a bulging. The pain may be intermittent or constant and the swelling may decrease or be absent, depending on the amount of pressure in the abdomen. Constant, intense pain at a swollen site may be a medical emergency and should be evaluated immediately by a doctor.

What are the different types of abdominal hernias?

Epigastric, umbilical, incisional, lumbar, internal, inguinal, hiatal and Spigelian hernias all occur at different sites of the abdomen in areas that are prone to anatomical or structural weakness. Internal hernias can be extremely difficult to diagnose until the intestine (bowel) has become trapped and obstructed because there is usually no external evidence of a lump.

How is an abdominal hernia repaired?

A hernia repair requires surgery. There are several different procedures that can be used for fixing any specific type of hernia. The surgical options include both open and laparoscopic (Key hole). The procedure bridges the hole or weakness with a piece of plastic-like mesh or screen material.

What is laparoscopic abdominal hernia repair surgery?

A number of factors have led to the development of a new method of repair called laparoscopic hernia repair. The procedure is done with several relatively small incisions. This allows the surgeon to enter the space behind the hernia defect and place the mesh with minimal injury to the surface of the abdomen. The advantages of this method include coverage of all the potential sites of groin hernia, which reduces the risks of recurrence. The procedure also offers other benefits of key hole surgeries like less pain, less post-operative discomfort, shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery and early return to normal activities, lower wound complications and less injury to tissue

Abdominal hernia facts

  • Symptoms of a hernia usually include pain or discomfort and a localised swelling somewhere on the surface of the abdomen or in the groin area.
  • There are many different types of hernias.
  • Serious complications from a hernia result from the trapping of tissues in the hernia (incarceration), which can lead to the damage or death of the tissue.
  • Hernia repair / treatment of hernia complications require surgery.
  • Lumps and swelling in the abdominal area should be examined by a doctor.
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