Health Care

Understanding Hernias

A senior woman sitting on a couch holding her stomach in discomfort while at home.

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June is Hernia Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to learn what a hernia is, how they can be avoided and how they’re treated. We put together some tips with the help of our general surgeon, Chrispin Okechi (Otondi), MD, to keep you informed and in charge of your whole health.

What Is a Hernia?

“A hernia is a painful condition that occurs when an internal organ pushes through the wall of muscle that holds it in. The most common types are inguinal, umbilical, femoral and hiatal hernias,” Dr. Okechi explains. “Approximately 75 to 80 percent of all hernias are inguinal and occur more often in men. Hernias typically occur somewhere between your shoulders and hips.”

Hernias are caused by weakened muscle walls — which may have been present since birth — and strains on those areas can cause a rupture, leading to a hernia. Overexertion in these areas can have many causes, including heavy lifting, pregnancy, obesity, straining on the toilet or coughing.

Types of Hernias

Inguinal hernia: “These hernias differ in men and women due to our unique anatomies,” says Dr. Okechi. “In men, they occur in the area from where the testes descended during puberty, and in women, they occur in a canal containing a round ligament used to support the uterus during pregnancy. An inguinal hernia occurs due to either fatty tissue or intestine pushing through the muscle wall.”

Umbilical hernia: This type of hernia occurs when fatty tissue or intestine protrudes through the abdomen near the navel. Ten to 20 percent of newborn babies have umbilical hernias, but they usually close up by themselves by age five.

Femoral hernia: This type of hernia mainly affects older women. It happens when fatty tissue or intestines push through the muscle wall into the groin at the top of the inner thigh.

Hiatal hernia: “The muscle wall involved in this type of hernia is actually the diaphragm,” explains Dr. Okechi. “An organ, usually the stomach, pushes through the diaphragm wall and up into the chest cavity. Diaphragmatic hernias are similar but caused by different organs pushing up into the chest cavity.

Ventral or incisional hernia: A ventral hernia is located along the vertical center of the stomach wall, and an incisional hernia can be found anywhere in the abdominal cavity. Incisional hernias are caused by a previous surgery which weakened the muscle wall.”

Epigastric and Spigelian hernias: These are hernias located between the belly button or navel and the sternum and at the side of the abdominal wall below the navel, respectively.

Treatment for Hernias

Once a hernia becomes painful and affects your everyday life, you’ll need surgery to repair it. With the latest technology, these are outpatient procedures using minimally invasive surgical techniques with a laparoscope or robotic-assisted surgery. These techniques require only a few small incisions, greatly speeding up your healing time.

“This procedure can repair up to two hernias with one surgery. A special mesh holds the muscle wall together and has a long-term success rate of over 98%. Depending on the type of work you do and your discomfort level, you can usually return to work within two to three weeks. Inguinal, ventral, incisional and umbilical hernias can all be repaired with minimally invasive surgery,” says Dr. Okechi.

To repair other hernias, classic open surgical techniques must be used and have longer recovery times due to the nature of the surgery. These are inpatient procedures and require a hospital stay for observation.

Choose AdventHealth for Your Hernia Surgery

Our world-class team of award-winning surgeons at AdventHealth is dedicated to your whole health and quick recovery. AdventHealth has continually invested in the future of medicine and advanced procedures for your convenience and well-being. Our surgeons have hundreds of hours of advanced training with the newest surgical procedures and equipment, such as the da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system and laparoscope, to heal you in the most effective and least invasive ways possible.

To speak with one of our experts about hernia concerns, or to schedule your hernia surgery, please visit our site or call Call407-543-4670.

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