is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the United States.
Each year more than 750,000 hernias are treated, while an even
greater number go unrepaired.
A hernia is the protrusion of tissue, most
commonly intestines or fat, through an abnormal opening in the abdominal wall.
Think of an old fashioned rubber tire with an inner tube. When the tire wall
weakens and separates, the inner tube can push through the opening. Similarly, a
hernia occurs when tissue protrudes through an opening or separation of muscular
layers in the abdominal wall. As the hernia enlarges a bulge appears which is
most often visible when standing. Lying down allows the tissue to return to its
proper position and the bulge temporarily disappears. While hernias can occur
anywhere on the abdominal wall, including the belly button, the greatest number
are in the groin area.
How Do I Get a Hernia?
Hernias can be present at birth or occur over
time due to stress and strain on the abdominal wall. However, the greatest
direct cause of hernias appears to be hereditary. If a member of your immediate
family (father, grandfather, brother, etc.) had a hernia, then your chance of
developing a hernia is much greater than an individual without a family history.
Lifting heavy objects does not appear to be a serious cause of hernia.
What Are My Options?
Without surgery, you simply tolerate the hernia.
Wearing a truss or binder may temporarily control the bulge from increasing in
size, but it will not permanently cure the hernia. Only surgery can permanently
correct the hernia defect.
Traditional or more old fashioned hernia repair
techniques involve suturing the separated abdominal wall muscles and ligaments
together. Since muscles are soft and movable while ligaments remain rigid and
stationary, these structures can reseparate over time or the sutures can tear
through the tissue, causing the hernia to reform.
More modern types of hernia repairs involve
placement of a plastic mesh in the area of the hernia. The mesh strengthens the
tissue surrounding the hernia and closes off the separation so that tissues can
no longer push their way through.