What to Expect From Hernia Repair Surgery (2022)

A hernia is when an organ or tissue protrudes through a weak area of muscle. This is most common in the abdomen. Hernia repair surgery is called a hernioplasty. During this surgery, the displaced tissue is returned back into the body and the weak spot is stitched or patched up.

Hernia repair surgery is common. It is generally very safe and effective. If you or a loved one are considering this surgery, though, it is important to understand its potential risks and the recovery process.

This article looks at hernia repair surgery and its purpose. It also discusses how to prepare for surgery, what the risks are, and what you should expect while you recover.

What to Expect From Hernia Repair Surgery (1)

What Is Hernia Repair Surgery?

Hernia repair surgery is performed by a general surgeon. It is usually done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical center. An outpatient surgical center is a facility that does not require an overnight stay, so it's not long that you have to stay in the hospital after hernia surgery unless there are complications.

The surgery may be done in adults and children. It usually takes less than an hour or two.

Hernia repair surgery is done with anesthesia. The type you receive depends on the surgical technique. It may also depend on if the surgery is an emergency or not.

The three types of anesthesia that you may receive include:

  • General anesthesia: This puts you in a sleep-like state.
  • Regional anesthesia: This type is given through the spinal cord. It numbs a large part of your body.
  • Local anesthesia with sedation: This numbs a smaller part of your body. The sedation relaxes you and may or may not make you fall asleep.

The Difference Between Hernioplasty and Herniorrhaphy

Herniorrhaphy refers to a surgical technique that relies primarily on sutures to secure herniated tissue in its proper location and strengthen the weakened muscle at the site. Hernioplasty is a different technique that relies primarily on placing synthetic mesh to reinforce the weakened muscle site.

Types of Anesthesia Used During Surgery

Surgical Techniques

Hernias are repaired with one of two types of surgery:

  • Open surgery
  • Laparoscopic surgery

The technique used is based on several variables. These may include:

  • The size and location of the hernia
  • The patient's age
  • The patient's overall health

During open surgery, the surgeon makes a cut called an incision near the hernia. The bulging tissue is returned back into the body through the incision.

The weak muscle that allowed the hernia to occur is then repaired. It may be stitched back together or, more commonly, patched with a synthetic material called mesh.

During laparoscopic surgery, multiple tiny incisions are made around the hernia. Long, thin surgical tools are inserted through these incisions.

One of these tools has a camera attached to it. The camera projects images onto a TV screen. This lets the surgeon view the inside of the body. Other tools are used to repair the hernia in the same way as with open surgery.

(Video) Hernia Repair Surgery – What to Expect

Open surgery is a more traditional way to repair a hernia. Laparoscopic surgery is generally less painful and often lets patients recover faster.

The downside of laparoscopic surgery is that it's done under general anesthesia. Open surgery can be done under general, regional, or local anesthesia.

Understanding Laparoscopic Surgery

Hernia repair may be done laparoscopically or with open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery typically has a faster recovery time.

Contraindications

There are no absolute contraindications to undergoing hernia repair surgery. This means there are no medical conditions that will exclude you from being able to have hernia surgery.

There may be relative contraindications. These are circumstances that make extra preparation necessary before you can have the surgery. These include:

  • A bleeding disorder
  • Obesity
  • Being a current tobacco user
  • A history of blood clots

Purposes of Hernia Surgery

Most hernias occur within the abdominal wall. With these hernias, there is a weakness or tear in the outer abdominal muscles. These muscles normally keep organs or tissues, like the intestines, inside.

In an inguinal hernia, the intestines or fatty tissue bulges through the abdominal muscles in the groin area. About 75% of all hernias are inguinal. These are most common in biological males.

Another type of abdominal wall hernia is a femoral hernia. These occur a bit lower in the groin than inguinal hernias. They are more common in biological females, and carry higher risks if not repaired.

Other types of abdominal wall hernias include:

  • Umbilical hernia, a hernia near the belly button that's typically not serious. It is most common in newborns and usually closes on its own. These hernias are more concerning in adults.
  • Epigastric hernia, a hernia that requires surgery but isn't usually an emergency
  • Incisional hernia, one that develops after abdominal surgery and often needs further repair

Reducible Hernia

A reducible hernia is one that bulges with pressure. This might happen when you're lifting something heavy. It might also happen when you're straining to have a bowel movement.

Reducible hernias return inside the body when the pressure is gone. You may also be able to push them back with gentle pressure from the outside.

These hernias are not considered severe or serious, but still require a surgical repair.

Incarcerated Hernia

An incarcerated hernia remains in the "out" position. It can't be pushed back.

These hernias can become strangulated. This means the bulging tissue loses blood flow. This can be life-threatening and requires emergency surgery.

Irreducible hernias can lead to permanent damage. For example, 15% of boys with an irreducible hernia will experience testicular damage and atrophy.

Surgeons recommend hernia repair surgery for most hernias. This will improve symptoms and prevent hernia incarceration.

(Video) Hernia Repair with Michael Perez, MD, General Surgeon

In certain cases, watchful waiting may be recommended. This means your doctor may want to monitor your condition for a while before making a decision about surgery. For example:

  • You may have an inguinal hernia that has no symptoms and isn't getting bigger.
  • You may have a small, umbilical hernia that has no symptoms. This is a hernia that appears near the belly button. These types of hernias usually aren't serious.
  • You may have a sliding hiatal hernia but no reflux disease. This is when your stomach and part of your esophagus slide into your chest through a hole in your diaphragm called the esophageal hiatus. This is the most common type of hiatal hernia. It is not usually dangerous.

Preparing for Hernia Surgery

Your surgeon will give you instructions on how to prepare for your surgery.

These instructions may include:

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing on the day of your surgery.
  • Stop taking certain medications for a period of time before surgery. For example, you should avoid taking aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) a week before surgery.
  • Stop eating for a period of time prior to surgery. This depends on the surgical technique and type of anesthesia.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery.
  • Pack personal items if a hospital stay is needed. This is not typical.

Hernia Surgery: How To Prepare

Follow your surgeon's instructions when preparing for your surgery. For example, you will need to avoid NSAIDs in the weeks leading up to your procedure. You may also need to stop eating for a short period before your surgery.

What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

What happens the day of your surgery will depend on certain factors. The steps will vary depending on the type of surgery you will have and which anesthesia you will receive.

If you are having laparoscopic surgery, you can expect the following steps:

  • After you arrive you will change into a gown. Members of your surgical team will meet with you to briefly review the surgery.
  • You will be taken into the operating room. You will be given medication to put you into a sleep-like state.
  • While asleep, the surgeon will inflate your stomach with air. This makes it easier for the surgeon to see your internal organs and tissues.
  • A small incision will be made at your navel. The surgeon will insert a laparoscope, a long, thin surgical tool with a camera attached to it.
  • The camera will project images onto a TV screen. This lets the surgeon see what is happening inside your body.
  • Additional small incisions will then be made. Other surgical tools will be inserted through these incisions.
  • The surgeon will use the surgical tools to return the bulging tissue back into its place.
  • The surgeon will then stitch or patch the weakness in the abdominal wall.
  • The surgeon will then deflate your abdomen. The small incision sites will be closed with stitches or surgical tape.

After the surgery, you will be moved to a recovery room. You will spend a few hours there while the anesthesia wears off. When symptoms like pain are under control, you will be able to go home.

Hernia Surgery: What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

Most hernia repair surgeries are simple. You can usually go home the same day.

Recovery From Hernia Surgery

Recovery time for hernia repair surgery varies depending on what kind of surgery you had. For laparoscopic surgery, it's typically about one to two weeks. For open repair surgery, it's usually about three weeks.

Make sure to follow your surgeon's post-operative instructions. This will help optimize healing and prevent complications. These instructions may include:

  • Use an ice pack or cold compress every couple of hours for 15 minutes. This will help to reduce swelling. Don't put the ice pack directly on your skin.
  • Take Tylenol (acetaminophen) to control pain. If your pain is more significant, you may be prescribed an opioid. Take as directed.
  • Get up and walk around five to six times per day. This will help prevent blood clots.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching your incisions. This helps to prevent infection.
  • If you had laparoscopic surgery, avoid strenuous exercise for four weeks. If you had open surgery, avoid this for six weeks.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms while you're recovering:

  • Persistent, severe, or worsening pain
  • Fever
  • Signs of infection from the surgical site like warmth, redness, increased swelling, and/or abnormal drainage
  • Persistent vomiting
  • No bowel movement by day two or three after surgery
(Video) What to Expect After Your Hernia Surgery?

Hernia Surgery: Recovery

Outcomes and Long-Term Care

Hernias will not heal or resolve on their own. The main benefit of surgery is that, in most cases, it fixes the problem. This means that after you recover, you should be able to return to your normal routine and daily life. You should not have pain, discomfort, or a visible bulge.

In most cases, the long-term prognosis for people who have hernia surgeries is good. Inguinal hernia repairs are generally uncomplicated, although about 10% of people will experience chronic pain and there may be recurrence of the hernia.

About one in six people will have a hernia recurrence after certain abdominal wall repairs, with some variation based on the technique used. There are few short-term complications with incisional hernia repair, although less is known about the long-term impacts.

In the long-term, your surgeon will want you to stay healthy. If you have any persistent symptoms, especially pain, let your surgeon know. If you are obese, your surgeon may recommend losing weight to prevent a recurrence.

Hernia Surgery: Long-Term Care

Potential Risks of Hernia Repair Surgery

The main risks of hernia repair surgery include:

  • Bleeding or hematoma. This is when blood collects under the surgical site.
  • Seroma, or fluid collection under the surgical site
  • Infection, potentially of the surgical site or the surgical mesh used for repair
  • Chronic postoperative pain
  • Bowel or urination issues, such as constipation or trouble urinating
  • Nerve or tissue injury or damage
  • Hernia recurrence

All surgeries have some risk. The risks in hernia surgery are low but may include chronic pain, nerve or tissue damage, and hernia recurrence.

Summary

A hernia is when tissue or an organ bulges through a weak area of muscle. Hernia repair is a surgery that can correct this problem. Hernia repair surgery is more urgent when the hernia is incarcerated or permanently in the out position. Surgery can prevent the hernia from becoming strangulated.

Some hernias may not require surgery, at least initially. Your healthcare provider may recommend watchful waiting instead.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions as you navigate surgery preparation and recovery. Be sure to contact your provider if you have complications, including signs of infection or persistent pain.

A Word From Verywell

Hernia repair surgery can be done with two different techniques, and open procedures also allow for a few anesthesia options. If hernia repair surgery is right for you, your surgeon will be your primary source of information about your options and the best approach.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens if a hernia is left untreated?

    (Video) Recovery from Abdominal Hernia Repair Often Takes Longer Than Patients Expect, Study Finds

    A hernia will not heal on its own. Left untreated, a hernia will become larger and can cause serious health problems. The hernia can become trapped or incarcerated. It may become strangulated, cutting off blood flow to the trapped tissue. This can be a life-threatening emergency.

  • Is hernia surgery life-threatening?

    All surgical procedures carry risks. Hernia surgery is typically not complicated. The risk of death generally is very low. The chance of complications is higher after emergency hernia surgery than it is after scheduled surgery.

    The main risks associated with hernia surgery are:

    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Bowel or urinary tract issues
    • Nerve or tissue damage
    • Chronic post-operative pain
    • Fluid collection at the surgical site.
  • How long does it take to heal after hernia surgery?

    Recovery can take a few weeks. If the surgery was performed laparoscopically, healing could take as little as a week to two weeks. Open hernia surgery will take longer to heal. It typically takes three weeks to a month to recover from open hernia surgery.

  • Are there non-surgical options to treat hernias?

    Generally speaking, no. Hernias require surgical treatment. In some cases, your healthcare provider may opt for a watchful waiting approach if you have no symptoms or to see if the hernia worsens. However, there is much you can do to prevent hernias, such as maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.

    (Video) What to Do if You Have a Hernia | Clayton Petro, MD

FAQs

What to Expect From Hernia Repair Surgery? ›

Most patients go home the same day. Abdominal wall hernia repairs may require up to a two-day hospital stay due to the internal stitches and healing that is required. Expect some soreness around the surgical site during the first 24 to 48 hours following surgery. Walking is encouraged, based on your energy level.

What is typical recovery time from hernia surgery? ›

Open hernia surgery, in which a surgeon utilizes a long incision to push the bulging organ back into place, generally requires a minimum of three weeks to recover. If a laparoscopic hernia repair is performed, recovery is closer to one to two weeks.

Is hernia repair surgery considered major surgery? ›

Comparing surgical repair options

Open hernia repair is a major surgery that's performed with the aid of general anesthesia or local anesthesia and sedation. It's done through one or two standard-sized incisions (three to six inches in length) that allow the surgeon to fully visualize and access the problematic area.

What can you not do after hernia surgery? ›

What To Avoid After Hernia Surgery
  1. No strenuous activity.
  2. No lifting anything over 15 pounds.
  3. No driving (especially while you are taking narcotic pain meds)
  4. No hot tubs, swimming, or soaking for 2 weeks.
Sep 29, 2020

Why is hernia surgery so painful? ›

The most common cause of chronic pain after hernia surgery is damage or injury to a nerve. During hernia surgery, a nerve may have been injured, compressed, or stuck in scar tissue after the mesh insert was placed. To determine if the pain is the result of nerve damage or injury, a nerve block may be used.

Do your balls swell after hernia surgery? ›

Men who have had an inguinal hernia repair may find their scrotum is swollen and turn black and blue. This is normal and may worsen after a few days. To help reduce swelling, use ice packs and wear supportive underwear such as briefs. The scrotum will return to normal in a few weeks.

What is the fastest way to recover from hernia surgery? ›

How can you care for yourself at home?
  1. Rest when you feel tired.
  2. You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry. ...
  3. Allow the area to heal. ...
  4. Be active. ...
  5. You most likely can return to light activity after 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the type of surgery you had.

What type of hernia is most severe? ›

Strangulated hernias are life threatening and require emergency medical care.

Is a breathing tube used during hernia surgery? ›

Laparoscopic repair requires a general anesthetic and temporary intubation with a breathing tube. For patients that prefer to avoid general anesthesia and those that have medical comorbidities that make general anesthesia higher risk, open surgery is preferred.

How painful is hernia surgery? ›

For a laparoscopic procedure, you'll find that there is very little pain at the incisions as they are small and insignificant. Most of the discomfort following this type of surgery will be caused by the distention of the abdominal wall muscles by the insufflation gas used during the procedure.

How do you poop after hernia surgery? ›

Relieving Constipation After Hernia Surgery
  1. 1) Drink water. When you are constipated, your stool is hardened and won't pass through your digestive system. ...
  2. 2) Drink prune juice. ...
  3. 3) Eat foods that are rich in fiber. ...
  4. 4) Eat yogurt. ...
  5. 5) Olive oil. ...
  6. 6) Take a walk. ...
  7. 7) Take a stool softener. ...
  8. 8) Talk to your doctor about a laxatives.
Dec 12, 2016

What if I sneeze after hernia surgery? ›

You have any sudden or persistent new pain anywhere except in the incision. If you sneeze or cough violently your incision will hurt more than it has in several days. This is not cause for alarm. Most hernia repairs will have some discomfort for up to six months after surgery.

Can I bend down after hernia surgery? ›

Avoid lifting more than 10 pounds for four weeks and excessive bending or twisting for one to two weeks following surgery. This is to allow healing of the incisions, specifically the fascia (the strongest layer of the abdomen wall) and to decrease the risk of your hernia coming back.

Is it OK to cough after hernia surgery? ›

Deep breathing and circulation exercises are good. Try to avoid vigorous coughing if your repair was done with the open method. Coughing may strain your incision. For a couple of weeks, when you need to cough or sneeze, splint your incision.

How long will I be in pain after hernia surgery? ›

After surgery to repair your hernia, you are likely to have pain for a few days. You may also feel tired and have less energy than normal. This is common. You should feel better after a few days and will probably feel much better in 7 days.

How long does a hernia operation take? ›

Most routine hernia operations take about 30 to 90 minutes depending on the type and size of hernia. After surgery, patients spend about 1-2 hours in the recovery room before leaving the hospital to continue recovering from the comfort of their homes.

Why do I still have a bulge after hernia repair? ›

It is possible that the repair is still intact and bulging of the mesh causes swelling. Bulging can be the result of an insufficient surgical technique. The problem is more frequently seen after repair of large defects, especially when mesh are used to bridge the defects, and more frequent after laparoscopic repair,,.

What should I wear after hernia surgery? ›

Following their abdominal procedure, most patients find it beneficial to wear a compression garment, which is a soft, surgical girdle-like garment that fits over your abdomen and compresses it, minimizing swelling and encouraging proper healing.

How long does a drain stay in after hernia surgery? ›

In most cases, your drain will remain in place until you have approximately 30 milliliters or less per day for 2 days in a row. Sometimes patients are sent home with drains for a few days; follow your instructions for caring for and emptying your JP drains, and record all output from the JP drain.

Can I ride in a car after hernia surgery? ›

Generally, normal activities can be resumed in a few days after laparoscopic hernia repair and a week for open hernia repair. Under no circumstances should you drive an automobile while you are taking narcotic pain medications.

How long does it take for hernia mesh to set? ›

Full recovery time may take four to six weeks. Right after surgery, patients should perform only necessary daily functions but can return to light activity after a few weeks of recovery. Heavy activity can resume after six weeks.

Are there food restrictions after hernia surgery? ›

You must not eat breads, crackers, biscuits, chunky meats such as steaks and dry meals such as cold cuts. You can now start eating soft food such as well cooked pasta, minced meat, flaked fish, well cooked rice, pulses and vegetables with plenty of sauce.

What is considered a large hernia? ›

Large hernia defects are defined in the literature as up to 10 cm in size, but Dr. Ross and his colleagues hypothesized that massive hernia needed a more accurate cutoff size.

What is the main cause of hernia? ›

Ultimately, all hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle or fascia; the pressure pushes an organ or tissue through the opening or weak spot. Sometimes the muscle weakness is present at birth; more often, it occurs later in life.

What painkillers can you take for a hernia? ›

Over-the-counter pain medications can relieve discomfort associated with an inguinal hernia. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen, or naproxen can be taken, depending on individual preference.

How painful is hernia surgery? ›

For a laparoscopic procedure, you'll find that there is very little pain at the incisions as they are small and insignificant. Most of the discomfort following this type of surgery will be caused by the distention of the abdominal wall muscles by the insufflation gas used during the procedure.

When can I go back to work after hernia surgery? ›

When can I return to work after hernia surgery? Most people can return to work within three days to two weeks after surgery. People who perform manual labor may need more time off.

Videos

1. Hiatal Hernia Repair FAQ
(Johns Hopkins Medicine)
2. Inguinal Hernia Repair Surgery, Risks and Outcomes - CHI Health
(CHI Health)
3. Let's be honest: Pain after inguinal hernia repair
(Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES))
4. HealthTalks - Hernia Repair Surgery With Mesh
(Baptist Health)
5. Umbilical Hernia Symptoms and Surgical Repair, Dr. Hadley Wesson
(Howard County General Hospital)
6. What to Expect After Your Hernia Surgery?
(Baylor College of Medicine)

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