What is umbilical hernia repair?

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Umbilical hernia repair surgery: Overview

An umbilical hernia repair is surgery to fix a hernia. A hernia is a bulge under the skin in your belly. An umbilical hernia is near the belly button (navel). It's a weak spot in your belly muscles that allows tissues or a piece of your intestines to poke through your muscles. It can cause pain. You may notice the pain most when you lift something heavy.

To fix the hernia, the doctor will do one of two kinds of surgery. In open surgery, the doctor makes one cut (incision) near the hernia. In laparoscopic surgery, the doctor makes several small cuts and uses a thin, lighted scope and small tools. Then the doctor pushes the bulge back in place, if needed. Often the doctor patches the weak spot with a piece of mesh material.

Open surgery leaves a single scar. Laparoscopic surgery leaves several smaller scars. The scars fade with time.

You will probably need to take 2 to 3 days off from work. But if your job requires heavy lifting or other physical work, you may need to take 4 to 6 weeks off.

How can you care for yourself after an umbilical hernia repair surgery?

Activity

  • Allow your body to heal. Don't move quickly until you are feeling better.
  • Don't lift anything heavier than 10 pounds until your doctor says it's okay.
  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • You can do your normal activities when it feels okay to do so.
  • Be active. Walking is a good choice.
  • Hold a pillow over your incisions when you cough or take deep breaths. This will support your belly and may help to decrease your pain.
  • Many people are able to return to work within 2 to 3 days after surgery. But if your job requires you to do heavy lifting or strenuous activity, you may need to take 4 to 6 weeks off from work.

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.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking this medicine again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • 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 incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, 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.
  • If you have skin adhesive on the cut (incision), leave it on until it falls off. Skin adhesive is also called liquid stitches.
  • You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.

Hygiene

  • 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.

Other instructions

  • You may have a special girdle, called a binder, placed around the area where you had surgery. This binder will help ease swelling and pain. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear it.

How do you prepare for umbilical 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Umbilical 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 have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your lung (called a pulmonary embolism). These may include:
    • Sudden chest pain.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Coughing up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You cannot pass stool or gas.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You are bleeding from the incision.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
  • You have signs 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 do not have a bowel movement within several days after the surgery.
  • You do not get better as expected.

After umbilical hernia repair surgery: Overview

After surgery, you are likely to have pain for a few days. The area around your navel may be swollen. You may also feel tired and have less energy than normal. This is common.

You should feel better after a few days.

What happens on the day of umbilical 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.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before 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. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 2 hours.

How is umbilical hernia repair surgery done in children?

Your child will be asleep during the surgery. To do the surgery, the doctor makes a small cut near the belly button. This cut is called an incision. Then the doctor pushes the hernia back inside the belly. Next, the doctor uses stitches to fix the weak spot in the belly muscles. Then the doctor closes the belly incision with more stitches or with glue. These stitches don’t need to be removed. They will dissolve in several weeks. After surgery, your child will have a small scar on the belly. It will fade with time.

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