Have you ever laughed so hard you thought you’d give yourself a hernia? Or lifted something heavy and wondered if you pulled something “down there”?
While hernias are the object of many jokes and comedian stand-up routines, they are no laughing matter to individuals who suffer from them. A hernia occurs when muscle or tissue, usually in the abdomen or groin, weakens, becomes thin or even tears. This can allow other body tissue or an organ, sometimes the colon, to protrude through the weakened or torn tissue. This pressure and displacement can be painful.
There are several types of hernias, but the most common ones are the inguinal and femoral, both located in the groin area. People of any age may be at risk for developing a hernia. Sometimes the weakened tissue that allows hernias to form is present at birth, but other risk factors for hernias include chronic constipation, being overweight, a chronic cough or sneezing, smoking and heavy lifting. Even regular exertion, such as weekend yardwork, may cause a hernia.
“A common cause of a hernia is a prior surgery,” said Igor Wanko Mboumi, MD, a minimally invasive bariatric and robotic surgeon with Indy Southside Surgical, a Franciscan Physician Network practice. “After surgery, the tissue layer is affected and heals to about 80 percent of its original strength, and this can increase your risk of developing a hernia.”
Sometimes a hernia will have no symptoms, even when a small bulge is visible. But a hernia can be uncomfortable and painful, especially after bending over, coughing or lifting. Individuals also may experience weakness or heaviness in the abdomen.
“When a hernia is present, this means that things are out of place,” said Dr. Wanko Mboumi. “A hernia won’t go away on its own and can even lead to much more serious, even life-threatening situations, including damage to abdominal tissue and organs.”
Surgery is the most effective treatment for a hernia, he added.
“Even if the hernia is not bothering you or getting bigger, you run the risk of it growing, causing blockage of intestines, and being harder to repair in the future,” he said.
Robotic surgery has made surgery a much more viable treatment option for many patients, especially patients who, based on age or overall health, would have been once considered not good surgery candidates.
“While traditional hernia surgery meant a large incision in the abdomen and a long recovery time for patients, we now have the option of robotic and laparoscopic surgery that allows patients to recover much more quickly,” said Dr. Wanko Mboumi. “Patients usually leave the hospital within a day or two as opposed to five or six days with an open repair for a large hernia.”
The surgery usually involves suturing the weakened tissue area or incorporating a mesh to strengthen the affected area. The robotic and laparoscopic procedure uses advanced technology, including a camera embedded in a scope, and requires only a few small incisions in the abdomen. Patients stay in the hospital overnight or go home the same day. After a couple weeks of “taking it easy,” patients usually are back to their normal routines.
“The surgeons in our practice have more than 100 years of experience in repairing hernias combined,” said Dr. Wanko Mboumi. “Each patient’s condition is individually evaluated to see which repair surgery, open , laparoscopic, or robotic would be best. If you’ve been told by another doctor that your hernia can’t be repaired, we may have a surgical option for you.”
By Jennifer Hawke