This article aims at answering questions on the common, but potentially serious, problem that is hernia. Left untreated, hernia can bring your daily activities at home and work to a halt, but leading surgeons with access to the latest techniques are here to help – right on your doorstep.
What is a hernia?
The term ‘hernia’ refers to an abdominal organ or the excess fatty tissue surrounding the abdominal area protruding through a weakness in the muscle of an individual’s abdominal wall. Usually the muscles are strong enough to keep the organs protected and in place within the abdomen, the area between the chest and hips, but gaps can occur for a range of reasons.
One of the most common signs that may indicate a hernia is often bulge or lump either in the groin or umbilical region. This lump is often accompanied by pain and discomfort which can often restrict activity. They are very common, with approximately 75% being inguinal hernias which occur in the lower abdomen and are visible in the groin, but different groups of people tend to be affected by different hernias. Anyone can develop a hernia, regardless of their age or gender.
What problems can a hernia cause?
It may be possible to continue with daily activities for a period, but danger can occur if the hernia does not reduce and/or becomes painful. This may mean it is strangulated, cutting off the blood supply to the intestine involved. This situation is treated as an emergency as it can become life threatening. Specialists advocate hernia repair as soon as possible to avoid this situation. A hernia can’t heal all by itself (with the occasional exception that can sometimes occur in babies with umbilical hernias, nor can they be treated with medication. If you have a physical job involving a lot of lifting there will come a time when it may no longer be possible to work. Therefore the only effective and successful way of returning to full activity is with surgery.
How is a hernia treated?
You will need to speak to your GP about your symptoms who will then refer you to see a general surgeon. During the initial consultation, your complete medical history will be taken by your consultant and an ultrasound scan may be necessary. A thorough clinical examination will be performed and the treatment options discussed. There are now various types of procedure to perform a hernia repair and the location and symptoms of the hernia tend to dictate which type is best.
What is “laparoscopic” repair of a hernia?
Surgical repair of some hernias has moved on from conventional open surgery and can now be performed using laparoscopic surgery, commonly known as “keyhole surgery”. Surgeons use only very small incisions in the skin to insert a laparoscope (a specialist telescope) and instruments to mend the muscle wall.
The developments in such minimally-invasive methods mean:
- a faster return to normal activities for many patients as no large incisions are necessary, along with a lower risk of infection
- post-operative pain (and therefore pain medication) and scarring is reduced
- a shorter hospital stay is usual, and depending on the exact procedure, it may even be possible to go home the same day.
Any information on hernia surgery or treatment in this article should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or relevant health professional.
All figures or statistics in this article have been referenced from nhs.uk
Article By: Mr Tan Arulampalam; Consultant General & Laparoscopic Surgeon at http://www.oakshospital.co.uk/ in Essex