Do you have questions about the surgical procedures, treatments or services that we offer?
Below is a list of some frequently asked questions, but please feel free to call our office at (781) 762-2600 if you need additional information. We are always pleased to assist you.
What is a hernia?
A hernia occurs when tissue or part of an organ, usually the intestines, protrudes through a weak point or tear in the abdominal wall, forming a sac. The protruding tissue may lose blood supply and become obstructed, resulting in health problems as serious as life-threatening gangrene.
What causes hernias?
Hernias may be caused at birth when the abdominal lining does not close properly (this occurs in about 5 in 100 children); or they may occur later in life from a number of causes, including heavy lifting. The exact cause is often unknown, although risk factors for developing a hernia seem to include:
- Family history of hernias
- Cystic fibrosis
- Excess weight
- Chronic cough
- Chronic constipation from straining to have bowel movements
- Enlarged prostate from straining to urinate
- Undescended testicles
Where do hernias form?
Most hernias occur in the abdominal wall, either in the groin (inguinal, femoral) or navel (umbilical) or at surgical incision sites (incisional).
What are the symptoms?
Hernias usually cause pain in the groin or abdomen when lifting heavy objects, coughing or straining during urination or bowel movements. A tender or non-tender lump or bulge may also be apparent.
Are there tests to find hernias?
A doctor can confirm the presence of a hernia during a physical exam. The mass may increase in size when coughing, bending, lifting, or straining. The hernia (bulge) may not be obvious in infants and children, except when the child is crying or coughing.
How are hernias repaired?
Surgery is the only method to correct hernias. Among the most common procedures in the U.S., hernia surgery is performed to alleviate pain and to correct or prevent the occurrence of more serious problems. Surgery should be performed on any hernia, but it is especially recommended for patients with pain, who are at high risk for blockage such as large amounts of tissue protruding through a small hole, and whose lifestyles are hampered by the hernia.
What are my surgical options?
1. The most common hernia repair procedure is traditional (open or “tension-free”) surgery. Usually done with local anesthesia, a moderate sized, deep incision is made through the muscle. The tissue is pushed back behind the muscle, which is then stitched closed, and synthetic mesh is placed over the former hole site for support. Full recovery can take three to six weeks.
2. The minimally invasive technique of laparoscopy, done under general anesthesia, involves the creation of three small incisions in the abdomen, the injection of carbon dioxide gas to create a “work space” and the use of a laparoscope, a thin instrument with a camera on the end allowing the surgeon to see inside the patient’s body without the need for large incisions. Other necessary surgical instruments are employed through the other small incisions. This minimally invasive method causes less trauma to the body, so post-operative pain is less and recovery is shorter (about a week) than with the open approach.
3. In extra-peritoneal balloon laparoscopic hernia surgery or TEP repair, the “workspace” is created with an inflatable balloon outside rather than inside the abdominal cavity. This reduces the risk of bowel and blood vessel perforation associated with regular laparoscopic surgery. General anesthesia is still required and recovery takes about a week.
Is there risk of complications?
As with any surgery, there is risk of bleeding, infection and allergic reaction to anesthesia. There is also the potential for abscess formation, organ or blood vessel injury and hernia recurrence (only 1-3%).