Surgery treats a hernia by repairing the weakness in the abdominal wall. An incision is made so the surgeon has a direct view of the hernia. The repair is then done through this incision (open surgery). To repair the defect, special mesh materials are used to patch the weak area and make a “tension-free repair.” Follow your doctor’s advice on how to get ready for the procedure. You can usually go home the same day as your surgery. In some cases, though, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
Your doctor will talk with you about preparing for surgery. Follow all the instructions you’re given and be sure to:
Tell your doctor about any medications, supplements, or herbs you take. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter items.
Stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen as directed.
Arrange for an adult family member or friend to give you a ride home after surgery.
Stop smoking. Smoking affects blood flow and can slow healing.
Gently wash the surgical area the night before surgery.
Don’t eat or drink after midnight, the night before your surgery.
Arrive at the hospital or surgical center at your scheduled time. You’ll be asked to change into a patient gown. You’ll then be given an IV to provide fluids and medication. Shortly before surgery, an anesthesiologist will talk with you. He or she will explain the types of anesthesia used to prevent pain during surgery. You will have one or more of the following:
Monitored sedation to make you relaxed and sleepy.
Local anesthesia to numb the surgical site.
Regional anesthesia to numb specific areas of your body.
General anesthesia to let you sleep during surgery.
Most hernias are treated using “tension-free” repairs. This is surgery that uses special mesh materials to repair the weak area. Unlike traditional repairs, the abdominal muscle isn’t sutured together. Instead, the mesh covers the weak area like a patch. This repairs the defect without “tension” on the muscles. It also makes recovery faster and less painful. The mesh is made of strong, flexible plastic that stays in the body. Over time, nearby tissues grow into the mesh to strengthen the repair. Tension-free repairs are made in different ways. In some cases, the mesh materials are placed in front of the weak area (anterior repair). An incision is made over the hernia. A mesh “patch” is then placed in front of the weak area. The patch is sutured to nearby tissues to hold it in place. In others, the mesh is placed behind the weak area (posterior repair). An incision is made over the hernia. A mesh “patch” is placed behind the weak area. It is then sutured to nearby tissues. Pressure inside the abdomen helps hold the patch in place. Occasionally, a combination repair is used. An incision is made over the hernia. Mesh devices are then placed in front of and behind the weak area. In some cases, this type of repair includes mesh that goes through the defect in the abdominal wall.
When the procedure is over, you’ll be taken to the recovery area to rest. Your blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored. You’ll also have a bandage over the surgical site. To help reduce discomfort, you’ll be given pain medications. You may also be given breathing exercises to keep your lungs clear. Later, you’ll be asked to get up and walk. This helps prevent blood clots in the legs. You can go home when your doctor says you’re ready.
Hernia surgery is safe, but does have risks including:
Inability to urinate
Bowel or bladder injury
Numbness or pain in the groin or leg
Risk the hernia will recur
Damage to the testicles or testicular function
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