Dr. deVilleneuve is a native Texan, born and raised in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. After earning his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, Dr. deVilleneuve completed his medical degree at U.T. Southwestern Medical School followed by a surgical residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.... more
Inguinal hernias are a very common affliction that for most people alternates between just being a nuisance to being very painful. Traditionally, the options for treating this condition were to either have a relatively major surgery with quite a bit of downtime from work and other activities or just tough it out and hope that it would just get better on its own. (Spoiler alert: they never go away on their own!) Fortunately for those who are unlucky enough to have one of these hernias nowadays, there is a much better option that is not only less invasive, but that comes with significantly less downtime than what a lot of people anticipate.
This newer and arguably better option is laparoscopic, or minimally invasive repair. This involves using a small camera and long, thin instruments to do the repair without having to make a much larger incision as was traditionally done. As with most other types of surgery, whenever you are able to perform an operation using these minimally invasive techniques, the recovery and associated downtime after surgery is much shorter. In fact, our average patient will have their surgery on Friday and be back at work and off of all prescription pain medicine by the following Monday (3 days after surgery!).
Because of the rapid recovery associated with this technique, the recommendations about what you should do if you have an inguinal hernia are changing. When the operation was more invasive and the downside greater, there was more of an effort to see if it was reasonable to avoid having any surgery until such time that the symptoms were so severe that waiting was no longer an option. This lead to what was known as the "watchful waiting" method in dealing with hernias. Now, with our ability to successfully repair hernias with almost no downtime and with fewer complications or side effects from the surgery, the newer recommendations are to consider surgical repair for any hernia that is symptomatic.
The studies that have been done looking at hernias and subsequent repair have found that in general, about 85% of people who have an inguinal hernia are going to eventually require surgery. With this percentage so high, and the chances of having a complication from the surgery now so low, there really is not much reason or incentive to try an postpone surgery. Because of this, I recommend that anyone who has been told they have a hernia or thinks that they might see a surgeon who specializes in laparoscopic hernia repair to discuss the different options and see if surgery might not be the best choice for them.