Hernia “101”

Perhaps you or someone you know has noticed a new bulge or area of swelling in the groin or other location.  There may be some pain or discomfort associated with that bulge.  That bulge may be a hernia.  Is it reducible, incarcerated or strangulated? Is it chronic? What is a hernia?


A hernia is a tear or abnormal gap or space in the muscle of the abdominal wall.  Through that tear or space, the inner fat or other contents of the abdominal cavity is bulging.  Usually, the fat or contents easily moves in and out through the space.   This is called a reducible hernia, as the contents “reduce” back into the abdominal cavity.  Asymptomatic reducible hernias may not require surgery if  there is no discomfort.  Straining by lifting, shouting, or coughing, will make the bulge larger.  The increased pressure in the abdominal cavity caused by these activities, push content through the bulge.


What happens if the hernia is no longer reducible?


An incarcerated hernia occurs when the bulge suddenly becomes stuck in place.  In other words, it is no longer reducible.   After awhile, an incarcerated hernia will begin to swell.  Subsequently, the swelling leads to  increased  pressure in the tissue that stuck in the hernia.  This increased pressure will compromise the blood flow to the tissue and the tissue in the hernia will  slowly die.   A strangulated hernia is on that has dead tissue trapped within.

Sometimes, a hernia can become slowly incarcerated over a period of time. These kinds of hernias are considered to be chronically incarcerated hernias.  Chronic incarceration can cause discomfort, but is less likely to become strangulated.  Depending on circumstances, chronically incarcerated hernias observed or repaired.

Incarceration of a hernia is unusual.  Sudden incarceration may cause the following symptoms:
  • Increased pain or discomfort
  • Firmness of a bulge that was previously soft
  • Nausea or Vomiting

If you have any of these symptoms, you should consider calling your physician or going to your nearest urgent care or emergency room.


Hernia Treatment


A hernia can only be repaired surgically.   There is no exercise that can repair the muscle.  Generally, surgery can be scheduled at a patient’s convenience.  Also, there is usually no urgency unless there’s some associated complication or sudden incarceration.

A hernia belt, or truss, may can symptomatic relief, but the underlying problem will likely get worse over time.

A hernia may gradually get bigger over, become more symptomatic, or remain stable.  Ultimately, the decision to proceed surgery would be discussed at length during your consultation appointmentt.




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