Ventral Hernia FAQs
What is a ventral hernia?
A ventral or abdominal hernia occurs when there is a weakness in the abdominal wall which develops a tear or hole. The hernia is created as abdominal or intestinal tissue protrudes through the opening, causing a bulge to appear on the outside of the body.
What are the types of ventral hernias?There are four basic types of ventral hernia: incisional hernias which occur at the site of a previous surgery, umbilical hernias which appear at the navel, epigastric hernias which occur above the navel, inguinal hernias in the groin, and femoral hernias which appear at the upper thigh.
What causes a ventral hernia?
A ventral hernia may be present at birth due to a congenital defect, may gradually worsen as the individual ages because of a weakness in the abdominal wall, or may occur because of straining during heavy lifting, chronic coughing, or bowel movements. Obesity, pregnancy, weak abdominal muscles and smoking increase an individual's chances of developing a ventral hernia.
What are the symptoms of a ventral hernia?
Often a patient with a ventral hernia is asymptomatic and the hernia is only discovered because of the palpable bulge it creates. The patient may notice it or the physician may find it during a routine physical examination. There may be tenderness or pain at the site of the hernia, particularly when the patient lifts heavy objects, coughs, or strains during a bowel movement.
How is a ventral hernia diagnosed?
As mentioned, the physical presence of a lump in the abdominal wall is evidence of the presence of a ventral hernia. The doctor may require medical tests to eliminate other possible causes of abdominal pain, such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan or a urinalysis for a definitive diagnosis.
Are some ventral hernias more serious than others?
While most ventral hernias are not serious, there is the danger that such a hernia will become incarcerated or strangulated. In the case of an incarcerated hernia, the abdominal tissue cannot be pushed back into place. In the case of a strangulated hernia, blood flow to the area is impeded and tissue begins to die. Either situation is dangerous and requires surgery. In the case of a strangulated hernia, emergency surgery is necessary.
What are the symptoms of a strangulated hernia?Symptoms indicating the presence of a strangulated hernia include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea or vomiting, and the inability to move the bowels, urinate, or pass gas. These symptoms require immediate medical intervention.
What happens during a laparoscopic ventral hernia repair?
A laparoscopic ventral hernia repair is typically performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon creates several small incisions in the abdomen through which a laparoscope, a tiny camera and miniature instruments are inserted. Typically, mesh in the form of a synthetic patch is used to repair the weakness in the abdominal wall.
How long is the recovery period after a laparoscopic ventral hernia repair?
Since laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive, the recovery period is considerably shorter than after traditional surgery. Typically, the patient is able to resume normal activities within a week. More strenuous activities, such as playing sports, heavy lifting, or even sexual activity, may not be restricted for several weeks. After surgery, underlying issues, such as obesity or chronic coughing, must be addressed.
What are the risks of laparoscopic ventral hernia repair?
Although a laparoscopic ventral hernia repair is quite common and very safe, there is always a danger of complications from any surgery. In a small number of cases, it may be impossible to use surgical mesh and a primary closure is performed with simple stitching. Unfortunately, when this occurs,there is a higher rate of reherniation. It is also possible that a complication during the procedure will necessitate opening the abdomen for traditional surgery. As with any surgery, there is also a slight risk of post-surgical infection, excessive bleeding or breathing difficulties during or immediately after the operation.
- National Institutes of Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine
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