Dr. Mai Brooks: Hernia Surgery Information
Hernia repair is the most common general surgery operation in the United States. A hernia is a weak area or tear in the abdominal wall. Hernia in adults is usually due to time and stress. Older people have weaker tissue and get hernias. Those who smoke (and cough), are overweight, or have chronic constipation put more stress on their abdominal wall. In a hernia, abdomen content pushes through this “hole”, causing a bulge. Sometimes, if a loop of bowel comes out and gets trapped, blocking its blood supply, this is an emergency and urgent surgery is needed before the bowel dies. “More often, patients go have elective hernia repair, because of symptoms of pain, unsightly lump, or decreased ability to exercise or do manual work,” says Dr. Brooks.
The location of hernias are in the groin (inguinal or femoral), at the belly button (umbilical), upper abdomen midline (epigastric), or at a site of a previous surgical scar (incisional or ventral). Dr. Mai Brooks has done the surgery in an open manner with an incision directly over the hernia from outside the abdomen, as well as with a laparoscopic technique using a scope from inside the abdomen. Either way, the bowel is put back inside the abdomen, and the “hole” is patched up. Nowadays, permanent prosthetic mesh is placed to reinforce the repair.
After hernia surgery, it is important to follow postoperative instructions to avoid problems. You should realize that the hernia repair is very weak until it is completely healed, which takes about two months. For the first few days, the area of the hernia may be swollen, bruised and sore. Narcotic pain medicine can cause constipation, so take preventive measures with stool softener or laxative.
If you smoke, you should stop at least in the week before and after the operation. Smoking impairs wound healing, and coughing puts stress on the hernia repair. Dr. Brooks says the patient should not immediately resume driving. Sudden movement on the brake pedal can tear the hernia repair. Of course, heavy lifting or strenuous exercise should be postponed for several days. And yes, sex is strenuous exercise! Your surgeon will have specific instructions for you, and these are designed to protect the hernia repair and avoid complications.
Dr. Mai Brooks is a Board Certified Surgical Oncologist with offices in Thousand Oaks, CA. To request an appointment with Dr. Brooks, you may call her at (805) 379-4677 or visit her website.
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