Our human bodies are a complex network of nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and visceral organs. While our skin is the outermost layer holding everything together, on the inside it is the network of strong muscle fiber that holds all our internal organs in place.
A hernia occurs when there is a weak spot in this network of muscle and some of the internal organs or fatty tissue start to push through this spot. In many cases, this is not life threatening but in more serious cases, if left untreated, hernias can be very painful and also lead to severe organ damage or death. Hernias can be dangerous when the part of the organ bulging out into an area it is not meant to be in gets strangulated, or in other words the blood supply gets cut off from it, due to the blood vessels getting compressed. If a hernia in this condition is left untreated, that part of the organ will get damaged, which may lead to a host of other problems. The best way to treat a strangulated hernia is through surgery.
Thanks to the non-invasive surgical options available today, including open surgery and laparoscopic surgery, people can resume their normal activities within a few days after their hernia operation. Laparoscopic is the most common treatment method used by doctors today to treat hernia, as it has a shorter recovery period and involves minimal risk.
What is Laparoscopic or Keyhole Surgery?
Laparoscopic surgery uses an instrument called laparoscope, a very thin telescope with a light, to repair the broken abdominal wall from where the organ is protruding. Very small incisions are made through the abdominal wall to insert the laparoscope and other surgical instruments required to repair hernia. The carbon-dioxide gas makes space in the abdominal cavity by inflating it and the camera is inserted through a small hollow tube which allows the surgeon to view the hernia and surrounding tissues so they can perform the surgery. The actual operation is performed by the surgeon using long instruments. To fix the hernia, the broken hole is covered with mesh to strengthen the abdominal wall.
Are you a good candidate for the laparoscopic surgery?
Your doctor will consider many things before deciding to repair your hernia with the keyhole method. For example, if your hernia is strangulated, or if you have other underlying medical conditions, your doctor will consider fixing them before performing the operation so as to avoid any complication. Also the procedure may not be suggested to patients who had an abdominal or prostate surgery in the past. So discuss with your doctor to know if you are a candidate for the surgery.
Risks associated with Laparoscopic Surgery
When laparoscopic surgery is performed by an experienced surgeon in a well-administered environment, the results are very good with minimal post-surgery risks. However, if the laparoscopic surgery is carried out poorly by an inexperienced surgeon, it can cause certain complications. While swelling and postoperative pain is normal in certain cases, prolonged pain with bleeding at the incised area can be serious and requires attention immediately. You may also have difficulty while urinating after the operation, but you can avoid this by discussing it with your doctor beforehand to develop a proper post-op recovery plan.
While no surgery is 100% risk-free, laparoscopic surgery does have an advantage. The main advantage is that it doesn’t require a large incision to be made on the abdominal area. Because small incisions are made, there is much less postoperative pain as compared to traditional methods of surgery that involve larger cuts.
Pain after the Laparoscopic Surgery
The immense pain patients experience after the laparoscopic surgery is not due to the incision; rather it is caused by the many small cuts that were made in the deep tissues. Your doctor may suggest you medications to relieve the pain. You may also resort to traditional therapies such as acupuncture, yoga and exercising. However, nothing should be performed without the doctor’s advice.
What to Expect After the Surgery
After the operation, you will be monitored for around 1-2 hours in the recovery room. Once you are awake and able to drink liquids or urinate, you will be discharged. During the first 24 to 48 hours, you may experience a little soreness. When your hernia is operated with a laparoscope, you can get back to your normal activities within a week. You will be able to drive within a week and have sexual intercourse within 2 weeks if you are not experiencing any pain in the abdomen or groin.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to having laparoscopic surgery to treat hernias. Once you are fully aware of both the pros and cons of this method and have talked to your doctor, you can make an informed decision on whether you need to opt for a laparoscopy or not.
Here are some of the advantages of a laparoscopic surgery:
- The surgery is minimally invasive and requires only small incisions
- Because the incisions are small they heal faster, and the patient can return to normal life quickly
- There is less postoperative pain
- If there are two hernias protruding from different ends, both can be fixed at the same time during a laparoscopy
- It is more appealing cosmetically because of the small incisions that do not leave a big scar
On the flip side there are also some risks involved with laparoscopic surgery:
- Because the procedure is conducted without the surgeon actually seeing the parts being operated on but only an image on a monitor, this type of surgery can be particularly tricky and requires a highly skilled surgeon
- The procedure can only be conducted under general anaesthesia which is not suitable for all patients
- There is always a risk of damaging an organ in the surrounding area because everything is being done through a very small incision
- Because of how technical the procedure is a less experienced surgeon might not fix the repair mesh in place properly and there is always a risk of developing an infection
- Overall the procedure is more expensive than open surgery