An abdominal hernia is a hole in the abdominal wall that allows something to protrude through, usually the small bowel or colon. Hernias affect around 10 percent of the population, a majority of them being men. However, women also do develop hernias.
Joel VanderVelde, MD, general surgeon at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, sat down to share common symptoms, treatments and his general knowledge about hernias to help you best understand and be on the lookout for them.
Dr. VanderVelde shares, “The most common symptom people experience is a bulge, often accompanied by pain. The biggest risk of a hernia is intestines becoming trapped through the hernia, which can cut off the blood flow. If that happens, symptoms would be nausea, vomiting, abdominal distension and not passing gas or having a bowel movement.”
When asked how to prevent a hernia, Dr. VanderVelde explained that there actually isn’t much one can do. However, some factors may increase your risk of developing a hernia, such as obesity and smoking or a previous surgery where an incision led to a weakening in the abdominal wall. While there isn’t a way to avoid a hernia, you can prevent one from worsening by avoiding lifting heavy objects or putting strain on the abdominal wall.
Unfortunately, hernias do not heal on their own. “They can stay stable and not get any bigger, but generally, they will continue to enlarge over time.” Because of this, Dr. VanderVelde recommends seeing your doctor if you are worried about a possible hernia. Your doctor will typically perform a physical exam for diagnosis and may refer you to a surgeon if treatment is recommended.
Surgery tends to be the best treatment option for a hernia. Fortunately, most procedures are done on an outpatient basis and patients are able to go home the same day of surgery. Surgical options include open or minimally invasive procedures such as robotic or laparoscopic.
Typically in these surgeries, mesh is used to repair the hole in the abdominal wall. This treatment option dramatically lowers the risk of reoccurrence, is exceptionally safe and warrants very few complications.
Many of these surgeries can be done minimally invasively with laparoscopic and robotic surgery as opposed to open surgery, which can be extremely beneficial to the patient’s recovery. “Compared to open surgery, the laparoscopic and robotic surgery incisions are smaller and you typically have less pain. Studies have shown that people have a quicker return to work and a full recovery with minimally invasive versus open surgery.”
Hernias can be painful and affect your daily life. If you believe you have a hernia, talk with your doctor and ask for a referral to General, Vascular and Bariatric Surgery at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus. For more information, call 785-232-0444 or visit us online at kutopeka.com/services/general-surgery.