What is Hernia?
A hernia is the protrusion of organs, such as intestines, through a weakened section of the abdominal wall. If left untreated, the tear in the muscle can increase and more tissue or organs are pushed through the opening, forming a sac. This visible lump or bulge is one of the traits of a hernia.
Approximately 40,000 Australians have their hernias surgically repaired every year, making this one of the most common operations.
Typical Symptoms of a Hernia
A visible lump or a swollen area
An uncomfortable feeling in the gut, especially when bending over
Pain or aching, during activities like lifting or carrying heavy objects
Digestive issues like constipation
The lump disappears when the person is lying down
The lump enlarges upon coughing, straining or standing up.
Various types of Hernias:
The abdominal wall isn’t a solid sheet of muscle; it is made up of different layers. Certain areas are structurally weaker than others and therefore more likely to develop hernias. The different types of hernia include:
Inguinal – occurring in the groin. This is the most common form, accounting for more than nine out of 10 hernias. A loop of intestine pushes against the small ring of muscle in the groin, eventually splitting the muscle fibers apart. Inguinal hernias affect more men than women and are particularly common in middle age.
Femoral – occurring high on the thigh, where the leg joins the body. Similar to the events that cause an inguinal hernia, intestines force their way through the weak muscle ring at the femoral canal until they protrude. This herniated section of bowel is at risk of strangulation, which is a serious complication requiring urgent medical attention. Femoral hernias are more common in women.
Umbilical – a portion of the gut pushes through a muscular weakness near the navel, or belly button. This type of a hernia is more common in newborns. Overweight women, or those who have had several pregnancies, are also at increased risk.
Incisional – after abdominal surgery, the site of repair will always be structurally weaker. Sometimes, the intestines can push through the closed incision, causing a hernia.
Surgical intervention to fix a Hernia
Both reducible and non-reducible hernias need to be surgically repaired. The various procedures used depend on the location of the hernia, but may include opening the abdomen and using stitches and nylon meshes to close and reinforce the weakened section of muscle.
Inguinal hernias can be repaired using laparoscopic surgery. A slender instrument known as a laparoscope is inserted and the hernia repaired from the inside. This eliminates the need for large abdominal incisions.
**Sources:The Australian and New Zealand Gastric and Oesophageal Surgery Association (Hiatus hernia),Mayo Clinic (Hiatus Hernia, Inguinal Hernia, Umbilical Hernia)