The Basics of hernias
Hernia repair is one of the most common operations in the United States. Approximately one million of these procedures are performed every single year. Normally, they should be a routine operation, provided that the patient does not suffer post-operative complications from any mesh used in the surgery. Unfortunately, many of these surgeries end in severe complications.
Hernia repair is one of the most common operations in the United States. Approximately one million of these procedures are performed every single year. Normally, they should be a routine operation, provided that the patient does not suffer post-operative complications from any mesh used in the surgery. Before a patient even undergoes surgery, there must a hernia diagnosis and a course of treatment decided upon by the patient and their physician. It all starts when the patient begins to feel the initial symptoms of a hernia. Surgeon and specialist Dr. Rodney Barker has advice for patients who begin to feel discomfort that shows signs of being a hernia. Below Dr. Barker will provide information for patients experiencing a lump in their midsection.
What Is a Hernia?
Dr. Barker explains that a hernia is a problem with the abdominal wall. Although the simple belief is that it is just a hole in the abdominal muscle, the reality is that a hernia is slightly more complicated than that. As opposed to being simply a hole, it is when there is something that protrudes through the defect in the abdominal wall. In other words, there is something that is pushing through as opposed to merely being a hole. There are tissue and tendons in the area in addition to muscle and a hernia is a problem in that general area.
Hernias can occur for a number of different reasons. There can be a genetic predisposition to a hernia. Alternatively, there could simply be a weak spot at that point of the body. Hernias can happen to anyone no matter their age.
What Are the Symptoms of a Hernia?
According to Dr. Barker, the first indication that most people have that they may have a problem is that they have a noticeable bump in the area. Hernias will generally have some sort of protrusion, although they may vary in size. Although the general perception of hernias is that something will “pop,” that only happens in some cases. Most hernias just simply happen over time, or the patient will just start feeling discomfort or a bump. It could be that the patient notices the bump when they are getting dressed or taking a shower. Hernias can begin with either mild or severe pain.
Different Types of Hernias
As Dr. Barker explains, the most common type of hernia is called an inguinal hernia. While women also get this type of hernia, it is easier to diagnose in men because of the physical differences between men and women. In other words, due to men’s anatomy, they are easier to spot. The variance between the male and female body makes this type of hernia is more common in men. However, because the hernia is difficult to diagnose in women, there is a high chance that they could have an inguinal hernia and not even know it. There are several other different types of hernias, some of which are more dangerous than the more routine inguinal hernia.
What to Do if You Have These Symptoms?
The easy answer to this question is to go see your physician. The question becomes when is the appropriate time to go to the doctor if you notice any of these symptoms occurring. Dr. Barker informs us that the most important thing to remember is that a hernia will not simply correct itself without treatment. You will need to deal with a hernia at some point because it will not go away. While an inguinal hernia is not necessarily an emergency, it is best to make an appointment with the physician to have them examine the bump. Although it is not life-threatening, there is no need to delay in making the appointment because you should not needlessly experience discomfort.
While an inguinal hernia seems benign, there are some potential serious complications if it is left untreated. Anytime that you are dealing with something around the abdomen, there is a possibility that it can impact the intestines and bowels. According to Dr. Barker, the worst-case scenario is that the hernia incarcerates. This occurs when the bowels get stuck in the hernia. It is dangerous and can be life threatening. This is a very rare possibility, but it does happen on occasion when a hernia is not properly treated. This will generally only happen when someone knows that they have hernia symptoms as opposed to someone waking up one morning with an incarcerated hernia.
What Are the Treatment Options?
One of the main options about treatment is for the situation to be monitored by a physician. The hernia may not always require immediate surgery, although it will need to be dealt with eventually. Most people will opt for surgery to fix their hernia, although many people do not necessarily get this surgery at the first possible opportunity. Only a fraction of patients choose to deal with the hernia shortly after they discover it. Many can go up to five years before they fix it, although nearly all patients will ultimately choose to have the surgery to repair the hernia after they have dealt with it over time..
Surgery for an inguinal hernia can either be done laparoscopically or through a small incision. Laparoscopic surgery involves several small openings through which a camera is inserted as well as several instruments. With this type of surgery some sort of mesh or patch is used. Most hernias are fixed with one small incision. They will also rely on the use of a small patch to fix the weakness or hole.
The Recovery from a Hernia Surgery
Dr. Barker advises that hernia surgeries are generally easy to recover from so long as there are no complications. His patients are back on their feet shortly and have usually resumed their regular activities within a week. This is because most of his surgeries are laparoscopic, and this procedure generally has an easier recovery. If the hernia is repaired through the use of an open incision, the recovery time can be longer, and it is not uncommon to take six to eight week to fully resume normal activities. Even with the latter type of surgery, patients can go back to work in a week or two as long as it is not a physical job. Laparoscopic surgeries mean that patients can return to work almost immediately.
So What About Hernia Mesh?
Dr. Barker acknowledges the scientific debate about the safety of hernia mesh. Most of his procedures involve the use of hernia mesh because that is how he has been trained to repair hernias. To the extent that he is able to repair a hernia without the use of mesh because it is minor, it is his preference to do so. However, if the hernia is in the groin or is anything more than minor, he will use mesh to fix the hernia. However, Dr. Barker will always have a frank and realistic conversation with his patients about the use of mesh and the pros and cons of fixing a hernia with and without mesh. Although Dr. Barker believes that hernia mesh reduces recurrence rates, he also understands that it is a foreign substance inserted into the body and he tries to have an open discussion with his patients about it. He does have some patients that come to him and request surgery without mesh, although he will generally recommend mesh, notwithstanding the possible complications.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Slepkow is a lawyer with 22 years of legal experience.