Diagnosed with A Hernia? Your Questions Answered
If you’ve been diagnosed by a medical professional as having a hernia, you probably have a lot of questions as to what that really means. Questions like:
- What is a hernia?
- What causes a hernia?
- Do hernias go away on their own?
- Can a hernia burst?
- How can you fix a hernia?
- What is a hernia mesh, and what does it do?
- What does recovery from hernia repair surgery involve?
We are going to answer each of these questions as comprehensively as possible, so that you are as knowledgeable on your situation as possible.
Before getting started with these questions, however, it’s important to mention you may have found your way here because you think something may have gone wrong during a hernia mesh procedure. In recent years, many individuals undergoing hernia repair have suffered serious complications.
If you or a loved one underwent a hernia mesh procedure and have become injured as a result, you should investigate professional help via a hernia mesh lawsuit. Some mesh products were put onto the market without being thoroughly tested for safety and efficiency, leading to a steep rise in complications.
That being said, let’s get on with the questions.
What is a Hernia?
A hernia is a medical condition which occurs when an organ or piece of fatty tissue is displaced. This means it has moved from it’s appropriate location inside the body due to a weak area in the abdominal muscles. It then pushes through the abdominal muscles or connective tissue known as fascia, which creates a distinct bulge just under the skin.
There are many types of hernias, but five most common forms. These include an inguinal hernia, which is in the groin itself, whereas a femoral hernia is in the outer groin. Incisional hernias refer to one which appears at the site of an incision, an umbilical hernia is in the belly button, and a hiatal hernia is in the upper stomach.
Symptoms you may have a hernia include (but may not be limited to):
- Obvious swelling beneath the skin, which most commonly presents in the abdomen or groin
- Heavy feeling in the abdomen
- Constipation, including in rare cases the inability to pass gas
- Blood in your stool
- Feeling of discomfort when lifting an object or bending forwards
- Heartburn, and other feelings like acid reflux (particularly common with hiatal hernias)
Many people wonder if a hernia can cause burning pain. The answer to this is yes, especially in the case of a hiatal hernia. This can cause a burning pain in the upper portion of the stomach or esophagus. Hernias in all parts of the body can cause pain that may feel like a general ache, cramping, pressure, or overall discomfort.
What Causes a Hernia?
A hernia can be caused by many different things, and there are additional things which put you at higher risk for developing one. Common causes include:
- Heavy lifting without proper support or proper engaging of large muscle groups for stability
- Extreme diarrhea or constipation, such as that seen in the stomach flu or with food poisoning
- Persistent coughing or sneezing
- Poor wound healing or failure to follow post op instructions (incisional hernia)
- Accidents, injuries, or other items which cause severe jolting or pressure on the abdomen or groin area
Things which put individuals at a higher risk for developing a hernia include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of exercise and/or good muscle tone
- Lack of access to adequate medical care
Do hernias go away on their own?
Unfortunately, a hernia does not go away on its own if present in an adult. The exception is that umbilical hernias in infants do have the possibility of going away on their own, typically by the time a child reaches the age of five. This is because children’s bodies are still developing and can heal themselves in certain ways that adults cannot.
As an adult, your body has already developed in entirety. It also lacks the quick effectiveness with which a child’s body can mend itself. Therefore, the only feasible way of getting rid of your hernia is through surgery.
If a hernia is small and not causing any major difficulties, doctors may take a “wait and see” approach prior to scheduling surgery. This is particularly true in those where surgery may come with additional risks, such as those with existing health issues or pregnant women.
Can a Hernia Burst?
Many individuals are under the impression that a hernia can suddenly burst. This is incorrect. Instead, a hernia that is left untreated has the potential to rupture. It isn’t the hernia itself that necessarily ruptures, however, but what has caused it.
For example, an abdominal hernia contains a portion of the intestines. This piece has been pushed through the abdominal wall and is no longer in its proper internal placement. If the situation continues to go untreated, more of the intestines will push through the cavity. This can cause one of two dangerous situations.
Intestinal Strangulation: When large sections of intestines have been pushed through the abdominal wall they can become strangulated. This means that they no longer have an adequate of blood flow, which the tissue needs to survive.
The tissue (i.e. the intestines) will slowly begin to die off or become gangrenous. They have the potential to either collapse in on themselves, or rupture. Either situation has the potential to cause long term consequences, including death.
Abdominal Collapse: Another serious situation which can occur if a hernia is left untreated is that the abdomen will become emptied. Instead of being in their correct places, all the internal organs will be contained within the hernia. This can cause the abdomen to collapse.
If the abdomen collapses, there is no further chance of fixing the hernia. If the condition does not prove fatal, individuals will be left with incredibly serious internal issues that may not be manageable.
How can you Fix a Hernia?
A hernia must be repaired through surgery to the affected place. There are two types of surgery doctors use: laparoscopic and traditional abdominal surgery.
Laparoscopic Hernia Repair Surgery
Laparoscopic surgery is done through several relatively small incisions that allow the surgeon to enter with minimal injury to the abdominal wall. Incisions allow access to the area behind the hernia, thus allowing them to place the necessary mesh easily to avoid recurrence in weak spots. Since a laser is used to make the initial incision, this is sometimes referred to as “laser surgery.”
The benefits of this type of surgery include:
- Smaller incisions, which heal quicker
- Patients overall recovery time is slightly lower than with traditional methods
- Surgeons can enter just behind the hernia to place the mesh (details below) instead of at a separate location
Those with previous hernia surgeries can have the incision be over their old, thus preventing the creation of new sites.
Traditional hernia surgery requires for larger incision sites made by a scalpel. Surrounding connective issues are pulled together to hold organs in place, and (if used) the site where the mesh is inserted is located just slightly apart from the hernia itself to prevent accidentally nicking or damage to internal organs. This method is often referred to as “open tension repair.”
The benefits of this type of surgery include:
- It is a tried and true method used for numerous years with successful results
It can be used to repair larger hernias than laparoscopic can
What is a hernia mesh? What does hernia mesh do?
While not used in all procedures, hernia mesh is used in most modern hernia repair surgeries. It offers substantially better results than when connective tissue is simply used to hold herniated organs in place. If you have had a hernia repair surgery in the last few years, you almost certainly had a hernia mesh implanted.
Hernia mesh is manufactured out of implant-grade plastics that are formed in a gridded pattern. It is used to hold herniated organs in place, and simultaneously creates a lattice-structure which supports new tissue growth. Sutures are used to hold the materials in place.
A few benefits of using hernia mesh include:
- It covers the weak spot in the abdominal wall, which reduces the risk of reoccurrence
- Mesh allows the site and involved organs proper time to heal by giving additional support
- It promotes the growth of new, healthy tissue by giving it a lattice framework to attach to
What does recovery from hernia repair surgery involve?
Recovering from hernia repair surgery will depend on many factors. A person’s age, health, and the extent of herniation are all factors to consider when discussing how quickly (or long) recovery will take. There are some general guidelines on when a patient may recover, however.
A typical hospital stay after hernia repair surgery may be anywhere between a few hours to a few days. This depends on where the hernia was located, the health of the patient, and if there were any unforeseen complications. People who are at an elevated risk for complications can expect to stay longer than otherwise health individuals.
Most people can begin driving after a few days of surgery, so long as they are not taking pain medications. Pain medications can alter a person’s ability to react quickly, so driving should be postponed until after a person has finished taking them.
Any strenuous activities should be avoided to give your body a chance to repair itself. This means no sports, lifting items over 10 pounds, climbing excessive amounts of stairs, etc. for about eight weeks. An effective way to gauge if something is too strenuous is to focus on breathing. If your breathing is increased, the tasks is too difficult directly post-surgery.
Patients are encouraged to begin walking as soon as possible. It will not be pleasant at first and may even be downright painful. It is an important part of the recovery process, however. In fact, patients who begin to walk within 48 hours of any surgery (major or minor) tend to recover quicker than those who do not.
It is also important that patients understand there may be some general discomfort for several months following the surgery. Pain which feels like burning or tugging is normal, although it should be monitored close to ensure it isn’t something more serious.
Signs of serious complications
- Pain which gets worse with time, instead of easing up
- Pain which is sudden, sharp, and debilitating
- Pain that lasts for more than three months without significant improvement
- Pain that is present with vomiting or diarrhea (especially when blood is present)
If you believe that you may be suffering from a serious complication due to your hernia mesh repair, it is important you seek prompt medical attention.
Unfortunately, many people have began filing class action lawsuits again hernia mesh manufacturers because several products were put on the market without undergoing strenuous safety testing. If you had complications from a hernia-related surgical procedure, you may be qualified for some money to help cover the costs of medical bills, lost wages, and more.
While complications during hernia surgery is rare when a rigorously tested mesh is used, the hernia mesh put onto the market which were faulty have a very high occurrence of associated complications.
The most common complications associated with faulty hernia mesh include:
- Infection at the incision site or even within the affected organs
- Adhesions both to the incision site and internally on organs or around the mesh implant
- Breakage of faulty mesh implants, which can cause perforations (punctures or tears) to nearby organs
- Rejection, which is when the body rejects the mesh implant as a foreign substance
It is also possible for a hernia to come back after mesh repair surgery, although it is not a common occurrence. Surgeries using mesh which has been put through strenuous safety testing tend to have very low rates of reoccurrence. For those mesh manufacturers with recalls, however, reoccurrence is much higher.