In laparoscopic hernia repair, the surgeon makes a small incision in or just under your umbilicus and inserts a narrow tube to pump carbon dioxide into your abdomen. The gas lifts organs and other tissue, allowing a good view of your internal structures. The surgeon then inserts a telescope-like instrument with a camera at the end, which transmits images to a monitor. He or she then inserts the instruments to repair your hernia through other small incisions in the lower abdomen. After the repair is completed, the surgeon lets out the gas from your abdomen, stitches up or staples the incisions, and dresses them. Typically, all of these are done while you are under general anesthesia.
Laparoscopic hernia repair has two main benefits over open surgery. Since the procedure is minimally invasive, requiring only three small incisions instead of one large cut, one can generally expect less post-operative pain and a shorter recovery time--you will be able to resume your light daily activities in about a week instead of several and go back to work sooner, although strenuous activities are best avoided until after about four weeks.
What follows is a more detailed account of what you can expect after your surgery as well as the precautionary and post-operative measures you need to observe so as to hasten your mending.
Just after the surgery
Just after the surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room where your condition will be monitored by nurses for about 1 to 2 hours until you are awake.
After you wake up
After you wake up, you may still see the IV in your arm that has been inserted to give you pain medication and fluids. You may experience some post-operative pain, nausea, grogginess, and fatigue, but these should soon disappear. The nurses will continue monitoring your vital signs. Once you are fully awake and a little active, you will be given something to eat and drink. If drinking does not cause nausea or vomiting, and if you have been able to urinate and walk around a little without feeling dizzy, you may then be discharged.
On average, patients who have undergone laparoscopic hernia surgery are discharged 3 to 6 hours after the surgery.
Before leaving the hospital, you will be advised on how to care for your wounds and when to come back for a follow-up appointment. You will be released only if you have someone with you to take you home. Under no circumstances should you drive. You should also have someone to assist you for the night. It would be a good idea to arrange for someone to stay with you for the first few days, as you may not be able to immediately resume your normal daily activities.
For a few days after the surgery, your incisions may hurt, and if a breathing tube was used, your throat might also be sore.
Your doctor will have prescribed you some medication to alleviate any post-operative pain. Make sure to take them as prescribed. You can ask someone to fill the prescription for you if the hospital pharmacy has not, since you won't be in any condition to be walking about. You can use over-the-counter pills only if your doctor approves.
For about a day or so, you may notice some bloating, cramping, or shoulder pain from any gas still remaining inside your abdomen. This discomfort should be alleviated once the gas has been passed or absorbed by your body.
There are actually no physical or medical restrictions imposed on your activities after the surgery. This means you can do anything, provided it does not hurt. Nonetheless, in the first few days following the procedure, you should exercise some caution in your routine and other activities you choose to do. You will also likely feel tired for the most part. If you need to cough, sneeze, or vomit, put a pillow over your abdomen to support it. The area where incisions were made may be tender, swollen and numb, but this will go away after a few days. However, you should call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing too much pain or discomfort.
Up to a couple of weeks after the procedure, you will likely feel tired, since your body is using a lot of energy to heal itself. Regular naps will help your body and make you feel better.
Some do’s and don’ts
You may be able to take a shower within a day or two, but ask your doctor about certain precautions you need to take while showering.
Take short walks, just for a few minutes, as doing so will increase blood circulation and promote healing. However, make sure not to put much pressure on your abdomen.
Avoid lifting heavy things. Eat high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, and drink enough fluids to avoid constipation.
You may be able to drive after a week, but ask your doctor for prior clearance. You will be able return to work within 1 or 2 weeks, but you may feel a little tired initially. This means you should take extra care with every step and activity to avoid any accidents and injuries. You may be able to have sex after 2 weeks, provided you are not experiencing any pain in your groin or abdomen, but it would be best to first ask your doctor about when you may resume sexual activity.
It is crucial that you go to your follow-up appointment, which is typically supposed to happen two weeks after your surgery. If you are experiencing any complications or have questions, do discuss them with your doctor. Remember, no question is stupid when it comes to your health.
When to call your doctor
Should you experience the following abnormal symptoms, you must call your doctor or the hospital immediately:
- Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Increasing abdominal pain
- Severe or constant vomiting
- Bleeding, swelling, redness of your wounds or around it
- Discharge coming from your wounds
- Pain or swelling in one of your legs