What is inguinal hernia repair?

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Inguinal hernia repair surgery: Overview

Inguinal hernia repair is a type of surgery. An inguinal hernia is a bulge under the skin in your groin. It happens when there is a weak spot in the groin muscle and a piece of the intestines or tissue pokes through the muscle. This can be painful.

You may have pain when you're active. Or it may be painful when you strain during a bowel movement or lift something heavy.

Surgery can help with your pain. It can also prevent serious problems that can happen if an organ or tissue gets stuck in the hernia.

There are two ways to do this surgery. In open surgery, the doctor makes one cut near the hernia. This cut is called an incision. In laparoscopic surgery, the doctor makes several very small incisions and uses a thin, lighted scope and small tools.

During surgery, the doctor pushes the bulge back in place. The doctor may place a piece of mesh on top of the bulge to help keep it in place. Then the healthy tissue is sewn back together.

Laparoscopic surgery leaves several small scars. Open surgery leaves one long scar. The scars fade with time.

After the surgery, you can probably return to light activity after 1 to 3 weeks. How long it takes will depend on the type of surgery.

How can you care for yourself after inguinal hernia repair surgery?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Allow the area to heal. Don't move quickly or lift anything heavy until you are feeling better.
  • Be active. Walking is a good choice.
  • You most likely can return to light activity after 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the type of surgery you had.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • If your bowel movements are not regular right after surgery, try to avoid constipation and straining. Drink plenty of water. Your doctor may suggest fiber, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.

Incision care

  • You will have a dressing over the cut (incision). A dressing helps the cut heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If you have skin adhesive on the cut, leave it on until it falls off. Skin adhesive is also called liquid stitches or glue.
  • If you have strips of tape on the cut, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • If you had stitches, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.

Ice

  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

How often do inguinal hernias come back after treatment?

Most hernias that come back do so within 5 years after surgery.

The risk that a hernia will come back after surgery depends on the surgeon's experience, the type of hernia, and whether mesh is used. It also depends on your age and overall health.

  • The chance that a hernia will come back after surgery ranges from 1 to 10 out of 100 surgeries done.
  • Using mesh to repair the weak muscle in the belly wall decreases the chance that the hernia will come back by more than half.

The risk of the hernia coming back may be higher if your belly muscles aren't strong or healthy enough to "hold" the stitching (suture) material. The risk is also higher if you have bleeding or infection that weakens the repair.

How do you prepare for inguinal hernia repair surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

After inguinal hernia repair surgery: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are short of breath.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through your bandage.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

After inguinal hernia repair surgery: Overview

After surgery to repair a hernia, you're likely to have pain for a few days. You may also feel tired and have less energy than normal. This is common.

You should start to feel better after a few days. And you'll probably feel much better in 7 days. For a few weeks you may feel discomfort or pulling in the groin area when you move. You may have some bruising near the repair site and on your genitals. This is normal.

What happens on the day of inguinal hernia repair surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 2 hours.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.