Hernias are incredibly common and can usually be treated quickly by our clinicians. They are caused when part of your abdomen pushes through the muscle in the abdomen wall, creating a lump.
Hernias are not usually immediately life-threatening, but they can get worse without treatment. If you’ve noticed a lump in your abdomen, belly button, groin or in a place where you’ve previously had surgery, book a consultation with a hernia expert.
Types of hernia
Your internal organs and structures are protected from the outside world by the abdominal wall, a layered structure of membrane, muscle, fat and skin. When a weak spot develops in the muscle layer, the contents of the abdomen can push through, creating a hernia.
Hernias usually occur between your hips and chest. Below, we’ve outlined the most common types of hernia we treat at Sulis Hospital:
Umbilical hernias in adults
This type of hernia is found in or near the belly button. While they are common in babies, it’s possible to get this type of hernia as an adult. They are usually painless but can cause complications if part of the bowel moves into the hernia or the hernia becomes strangulated.
The inguinal canal contains blood vessels that supply the testicles with blood. Hernias in this area are common and usually present as a lump and pain in the groin area, but they can extend down into the scrotum. This type of hernia tends to get larger over time.
This type of hernia is less common than an inguinal hernia and occurs when part of the bowel pokes through into the groin area. You may feel a lump in the upper thigh or outer groin area.
A hiatus hernia occurs when an opening has formed in the diaphragm, allowing part of the stomach to push through. It is common amongst the over 50s and can create similar symptoms to heartburn or acid reflux.
An epigastric hernia feels like a lump between your belly button and breastbone. It’s caused by fat pushing through a weak spot in the wall of your abdomen. You might experience pain if the fat is pinched.
An incisional hernia happens at an incision site following surgery. When a surgeon performs surgery on your abdomen, they cut through the abdominal wall. If the muscle layer doesn’t heal properly, then part of the abdomen and the inner layer can push through, creating a hernia.
What is a hernia?
A hernia forms because there is pressure on the abdominal wall and a weakness in the muscle that allows the hernia to push through.
Hernias can also be caused by straining (due to coughing or constipation), lifting heavy objects, overusing a muscle and being overweight. If you are a smoker, nicotine can weaken the abdominal wall, making hernias more likely.
What are the symptoms of a hernia?
Hernias are lumps that appear below the skin, either in the tummy area or groin. You can usually see and feel them, but they may not cause you any pain or discomfort. They are usually quite soft and can be gently pushed back in.
If your hernia has become firm or it is accompanied by severe pain, vomiting or constipation, this may indicate that there is either an obstruction or the hernia has become strangulated. This is a serious complication, and you will need to seek emergency treatment.
Your hernia repair surgery questions answered
If you believe that you have a hernia, book a consultation with a specialist. They will perform a physical examination and ask you about your symptoms to determine whether surgery is the best course of action. You may also be sent for a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound to rule out other possible issues that may be causing your symptoms.
Surgery is the only way to treat a hernia, but your hernia may not need treatment immediately. Instead, it may be possible to employ watchful waiting, which is where we don’t operate but wait to see if the hernia worsens. During this time, a truss may be used to keep the hernia in place.
Your consultant is likely to recommend surgery if the hernia is large, causing you pain, or there is a risk that it will become strangulated. They will examine the hernia and recommend the best route forward, balancing the risks of surgery.
Ahead of your surgery, our team will make sure you know what to expect and are aware of any preparations you may need to make, such as arranging for someone to pick you up from the hospital. You may be asked not to eat anything on the day of your operation or to stop taking certain medications.
Please do let us know if you have had Covid-19 recently, as we may need to take this into account when booking you in for surgery.
Hernia repair surgery can take up to 60 minutes (depending on the type of surgery) and is performed under general anaesthetic.
Depending on the type of hernia that you have, your surgeon will either recommend open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. The latter is a type of keyhole surgery involving a small tube, camera and specialist tools that can reduce scarring and promote a fast recovery.
If the surgery is laparoscopic, the surgeon will inflate your abdomen using gas to allow them to see and access your organs. If the hernia is caused by a lump of fat, it may be possible to remove it. If the hernia is part of an organ, the surgeon will attempt to push it back into place. They will then use stitches and a synthetic mesh to cover the weak area of muscle.
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Pain from a hernia can be distressing and reduce your mobility, confidence and quality of life. Lengthy waits for surgery can affect your fitness, health and wellbeing. We offer investigation, diagnosis and surgery for hernia problems with short waiting times so that you can get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
All surgery has risks, including those associated with having an anaesthetic. General complications can include bleeding, infection, allergic reaction (to materials, equipment or medication used), blood clots and chest infections. Keyhole surgery can also cause damage to internal structures, such as your bowel, bladder or blood vessels. Other complications may include developing a further hernia and surgical emphysema.
Following surgery, complications can include haematoma/seroma (collection of blood/fluid under the wound), difficulty passing urine and continued discomfort or pain. There may also be specific complications relating to the area of the operation.
When you book your surgery with Sulis Hospital, your consultant will make sure you’re fully prepared ahead of the procedure. They will have a good understanding of your medical history and will let you know if you are at an increased risk of complications. Do make sure to ask if you are unsure about anything at all.
Patients are usually able to go home either on the same day or the day after surgery. You will need to arrange for someone to pick you up from the hospital and stay with you overnight. You won’t be able to drive, sign legal documents, drink alcohol or operate heavy machinery for at least 24hrs.
The team at Sulis Hospital are here to aid your recovery and will make sure you leave the hospital with any painkillers, medication or compression hosiery you need.
Most patients can return to work within a month, but your consultant will advise you on when it’s safe to resume normal activities and which exercises might be best.
You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.
We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.
If you are concerned about your hernia, talk to a specialist
Booking an appointment at Sulis Hospital General Surgery Unit means getting seen by a specialist and experienced consultant. You’ll also benefit from a timely appointment, with fast access to diagnostics and treatment.
If you do need surgery, you will be welcomed into a clean, modern hospital that invests in the latest treatments, diagnostic technologies and ways of working. We deliver an exceptional standard of care, which is why patients travel from all over the UK to have their surgery with us.
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