An inguinal hernia is the abnormal passage of abdominal contents through the inguinal canal. It is usually identified as an abnormal ‘bulge’ in the groin area, and can frequently be associated with symptoms of pain and discomfort. In some cases the contents of the hernia may become stuck (incarcerated) or the blood supply disrupted (strangulated). This then becomes a surgical emergency, necessitating urgent surgical repair and potentially a more complex operation.
An inguinal hernia can be a source of great discomfort, and many people find them to be problematic. Furthermore, inguinal hernia do carry a small risk of becoming trapped (incarcerated), or the contents may have its blood supply disrupted (strangulated). To help with symptoms of pain and discomfort, or to reduce the risk of potential complications which can be associated with an inguinal hernia, many people opt to undergo surgical repair. The precise risks and benefits of surgical intervention will vary from person to person, and so a discussion about individual risks and benefits will always be necessary prior to any surgical intervention.
A small cut of around 5-10 cm is made in the groin of the affected side. The hernia is accessed and the contents of the hernia is reduced back into the tummy. Sometimes, the lining of the hernia (or sac) may be removed. The defect which the hernia travelled through is repaired, and a synthetic mesh is placed inside the inguinal canal. This mesh is sutured in place as a tension free repair, and over several weeks fibrous tissue will form over the mesh which constitutes the strength of the repair. The inguinal canal and skin are closed with stitches.
Most inguinal hernia repairs are performed as a day case procedure so you will likely be home the same day, however in some cases an overnight stay may be required.
Some degree of pain is to be expected after the operation, and an uncomfortable ‘dragging’ sensation in the groin is not uncommon. This will usually settle after a day or two, and regular pain killers may be of benefit.
It is important after the procedure to avoid any significant exertion for two weeks, and to avoid any significant heavy lifting for around 6-8 weeks – this is to protect the repair, and reduce the risk of any future recurrence.
Although the risks associated with inguinal hernia repair are relatively small, all the relevant risks and benefits will be discussed at length prior to any surgical procedure.
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