What is a Hernia?
A hernia is a medical condition that results from tissue or organs protruding through the abdominal walls. This protrusion is due to a weakness or hole in a muscle. The condition might start without any symptoms, but can lead to serious problems like death if left unattended. Hernia surgery is carried out, therefore, to remove the bulge. If surgery is not performed early enough, the swelling might cause further damage to the affected organs. The abdominal region and groin are the most common places for a hernia to occur. An inguinal hernia, which occurs in the groin region, is the most common type of hernia.
Other Types of Hernia
1. Epigastric hernia – This is an abdominal type of hernia that occurs between the chest and belly button.
2. Incisional hernia – This type of hernia forms in or near the regions where surgery incisions or cuts were made.
3. Umbilical hernia – This type occurs in the area adjacent to the umbilicus.
4. Femoral hernia – This typically happens in the groin region.
5. Hiatal hernia – This is a type of hernia that results in the stomach slipping into the chest cavity.
6. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia – This type of hernia is usually present at birth. It causes the slipping of abdominal organs into the chest cavity.
Commonly Used Hernia Terms
In the diagnosis of a hernia, various terms are used to describe the condition based on its type, origin, and severity.
When abdominal pressure increases, a hernia can change in size. Actions like sneezing, crying, coughing, and those which result in or encourage bowel movements can lead to the buildup of pressure in the abdomen. When a hernia that occurs due to pressure can be pushed back to its normal position through manual pressure, the hernia is called a reducible hernia. A hernia that cannot be pushed back to its original position with manual pressure applied to it is called an irreducible or incarcerated hernia.
An incarcerated hernia can become an emergency if left unattended. It might cause tissue or intestinal strangulation, implying that the bulging tissue, is cut off from the supply of blood. This condition usually needs urgent medical attention.
Hernias that develop with age or as a result of surgery are referred to as acquired hernias. A congenital hernia on the other hand is one that is present at birth. and can be considered a congenital disability.
When Is a Hernia an Emergency?
A hernia that causes unbearable pain in the affected region is an emergency. This severe pain frequently results from a deficiency in blood flow to the organ protruding through the abdominal walls. Furthermore, a change in the color of a hernia can be a sign of a critical issue. If the color is purple, dark red, or grey, strangulation is occurring.
Recovering from Hernia Surgery
Due to the wide range of hernias, there is no standard recovery period. Recovery will depend on the type of hernia you have.
Hernia Prevention After Surgery
In most cases, hernias can be prevented. For example, to prevent an incisional hernia from developing, always protect incision areas until they completely heal. A simple preventive measure is to apply pressure gently on the incision whenever you sneeze, cough, or get up from a lying or sitting position. You will also be required to adhere to your surgeon’s instructions to avoid getting an incisional hernia. For instance, lifting heavy objects is to be avoided until the doctor recommends when it would be safe.
Hernia Prevention When Lifting Objects
Lifting or carrying heavy objects can worsen the hernia you have or even cause you to have one. If it is necessary to lift heavy objects, use proper techniques for the task. For example, instead of using your back muscles, you should use your leg muscles instead. Proper lifting techniques can help you avoid certain types of hernias.
Incisional Hernia and Its Treatment
An incisional hernia results when abdominal tissue is forced through abdominal muscle due to a weak spot in the area where an incision was made in a past surgery. The hernia can be seen as a bulge under your skin. It is tender when touched and can also be very painful.
Diagnosing an Incisional Hernia
This type of hernia is reducible in nature. It comes and goes depending on the buildup of pressure. You will only notice the symptoms when doing something that causes an increase in abdominal pressure, such as lifting heavy objects, sneezing, coughing, and activities that lead to bowel movements. When the symptoms are observed, the hernia is easy to diagnose. No other tests will be needed apart from the physical tests. For instance, you might be told to cough for the doctor to see the bulging of a hernia.
Other routine tests will also be done, such as the test for establishing which organ of the body is protruding. If a hernia is a large enough, more tests may be required, as the size may indicate that more tissue is trying to bulge through.
Incisional Hernia Treatment
Surgery as an option depends on the size of the incisional hernia. If it is small, surgery would merely be an option. However, in certain cases, surgery becomes a necessity.
A truss is another form of hernia treatment. A truss is a supportive undergarment that looks like a belt and whose primary purpose is to apply constant pressure on the hernia.
Incisional Hernia Surgery: When Is It Necessary?
Surgery is required if these factors are present:
- The hernia keeps growing with time.
- The size of it becomes unattractive.
- It becomes painful.
- It is large.
- The bulge does not reduce in size when you are relaxed.
When Is Incisional Hernia an Emergency?
When an incisional hernia becomes incarcerated, urgent medical care ought to be sought, as the possibility of it being or leading to a medical emergency is high. This is because strangulation can lead to severe consequences if left untreated. For instance, it can result in the death of tissue, as a tissue’s blood supply is cut off. A hernia that has become strangulated is identified by the its color and the presence of pain, abdominal swelling, vomiting, nausea, or even diarrhea. The color is usually purple or dark red. Treatment of a strangulated hernia helps avoid further damage to the other tissue and the intestines.
Incisional Hernia Surgery
The operation is performed under general anesthesia. It is inpatient in nature. Laparoscopy is recommended, as it is less invasive than open surgery and the incisions made are small.
Recovering from Incisional Hernia Surgery
Two to four weeks after the surgery, one can easily resume his normal, light activities. The tummy will feel tender for a week following the surgery. You will be required to avoid any activity that may cause damage to the incisions. Ensure that abdominal pressure is kept standard by gently pressing on the incision lines. Always follow your doctor’s advice to ensure a smooth healing process.
When Should an Incision Be Protected Using Pressure?
- When standing from a seated position
- When coughing or sneezing
- When lifting heavy objects
- When vomiting
- When bearing down during bowel movements
- An incarcerated hernia can become an emergency if left unattended, since it might cause tissue or intestinal strangulation.
- An incisional hernia results when abdominal tissue is forced through abdominal muscle due to a weak spot in the area where an incision was made in a past surgery.
- A change in the color of a hernia can be a sign of a critical issue. If the color is purple, dark red, or grey, strangulation is occurring.