The most common type of hernia is an inguinal hernia. An inguinal (or "of the groin") hernia occurs when internal tissue comes through a weak place in the abdominal wall in the groin area. While men are much more likely to experience them, inguinal hernias can happen to anyone at any age.
There are three types of inguinal hernias:
- Indirect inguinal hernias: Occur at birth or later in life. They can affect both males and females.
- Direct inguinal hernias: Develop over time due to aging, chronic coughing or strenuous physical activity. They can affect males and females.
- Femoral hernias: This type of hernia is not as common, but seen more in older women than in men. Typically, it is groin pain without an obvious bulge, often causing nausea.
Inguinal hernias do not always have signs or symptoms. Most inguinal hernias do not need immediate treatment; however, many will become symptomatic (painful) over time requiring intervention.
Many people seek a doctor's advice for an inguinal hernia when they experience the following signs or symptoms:
- A bulge in the area between the lower stomach and left or right thigh
- Abrupt pain in the groin, especially when bending over to lift something, coughing, crying, exercising or straining during a bowel movement
- An aching, burning or weak sensation in the groin
Sometimes, the symptoms of an inguinal hernia are mild, and you or your doctor might be able to gently massage the hernia back through the opening in your abdomen. But, because hernias cannot heal on their own and worsen with age, doctors often recommend surgery to repair the weak area in the abdominal wall. Larger, painful inguinal hernias require immediate surgery. Hernias that are more symptomatic can often limit physical activity or potentially cause nausea and constipation. These hernias usually require more urgent surgical repair.
If you're diagnosed with a hernia, you might hope to delay or avoid surgery. The watch-and-wait approach can work for some patients. However, a thorough evaluation by an experienced hernia surgeon should be performed to help guide you when making treatment decisions.
Inguinal hernia surgery removes the risk of an incarcerated hernia
Your inguinal hernia may not be at a serious stage when it's first diagnosed, but eventually, it can become dangerous. Complications can occur when the hernia becomes stuck in your abdominal wall. This condition is called an incarcerated hernia.
Incarcerated hernias are serious because they can become "strangulated," which means blood cannot flow to the trapped tissue. Signs and symptoms of a strangulated hernia are:
- A hernia bulge that turns dark purple or red
- Intense, sudden pain
A strangulated hernia needs immediate treatment because it is life-threatening. If you suspect this condition, an immediate trip to the emergency department for evaluation is recommended. Usually hernia repair surgery is performed within hours upon arrival to emergency department if, in fact, the hernia is strangulated.
Inguinal hernia repair fixes the weak area in your abdominal wall so that tissue can no longer protrude through it. Surgeons repair inguinal hernias in many ways, including traditional open surgery, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery or minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery. While each procedure has its own technique and recovery time, all work to repair the hernia and prevent complications. You and your doctor will work together to decide which approach will work best for you.
Recovering from inguinal hernia repair
As with any surgery, recovering from inguinal hernia repair can take some time. The length of your recovery will depend on the procedure you have done as well as your age and individual state of health.
You may experience frustration during recovery. But with patience, you can return to your normal activities. These tips can help:
- Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise until you've fully recovered from surgery. Once you've recovered, use proper lifting techniques when lifting heavy things. An example would be squatting to lift things instead of kneeling and using your leg muscles to power the action instead of your back muscles.
- Eat high-fiber foods, drink plenty of water and move as much as possible to prevent constipation and straining during bowel movements.
- Lose weight if you're overweight to reduce pressure on your abdominal wall.
- Seek care for chronic cough if you have one. Smoking is a common cause of chronic cough, so quitting smoking can help.
These tips can also help you avoid any further medical treatment.
Minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery for inguinal hernia
Our surgeons are skilled in all methods of hernia repair, including minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery for inguinal hernia. . If you require surgery, your doctor may recommend this procedure.
Minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery usually has a shorter recovery time than open surgery. The technology used in this type of procedure provides a minimally invasive option to patients who may not be candidates for laparoscopic surgery due to their medical history.
If you need surgery for an inguinal hernia, you can find an experienced, trusted surgeon at The Christ Hospital. Ask your doctor for a referral. Learn more about the benefits of robotic-assisted surgery.