Hernia Q&A

Ask the Consultant

Three of our leading general surgeons answer common questions on hernias including signs and symptoms, early diagnosis and effective treatments.

Abhay Chopada
Hernia is simply a term which suggests an abnormal protrusion through a weak area. Typically seen a lump in the groin or around the belly button or around a surgical scar which can usually be pushed back (reduced).


Nigel Suggett
A hernia is ‘an abnormal protrusion of the contents of a body cavity through the wall of that body cavity’. Put more simply it is a weakness or hole, usually of the abdomen or groin muscles allowing the abdominal contents to bulge outwards.


Adam Brooks
A hernia is when part of the inside of the body, often the bowel, pushes through a defect in the muscle wall.

Abhay Chopada
Hernias can be internal or external. External hernia are named according to the site where they originate i.e inguinal hernia -in the groin, umbilical hernia – around belly button, incisional hernia- through the belly button etc. Internal hernias are similarly named according to the site of weakness - like hiatus hernia.


Nigel Suggett
There are many different types of hernia depending on location and cause. The commonest hernias are in the groin (inguinal or femoral) and around the belly button (umbilical) but they also often occur through an old scar (incisional) or around a colostomy (parastomal). A ‘hiatus hernia’ is a bit different and is internal involving the stomach.


Adam Brooks
There are many different types of abdominal hernia, but the commonest are groin (inguinal) hernias. Hernias around the umbilicus (umbilical hernias) are also very common.

Abhay Chopada
Usually a swelling which come on standing /straining or exercise but can usually be pushed back only for it to reappear later on exertion or coughing. Some people may notice a discomfort or pain at the hernia site. Rarely the bowel may get stuck in an hernia and the patient may present with severe abdominal pain and vomiting (this is usually a surgical emergency).


Nigel Suggett
A hernia usually presents as a bulge which increases on coughing / straining. Some are painful but not always and most can be pushed back in again. With a small hernia there may be pain but not an obvious bulge. Occasionally a hernia may ‘strangulate’ . This means that the contents swell and the hernia cannot be pushed back in. This is very painful and often requires urgent surgery.


Adam Brooks
Sometimes hernias cause no symptoms, but frequently you will see a bulge or swelling in the groin or around the tummy button which is worse towards the end of the day. Many people will complain of discomfort or a dragging sensation but acute pain, although an important symptom, is rare.

Abhay Chopada
Hernias can occur at any age from a newborn to the elderly. Groin hernias esp. indirect hernias are due to a weakness that we may be born with but direct hernias are usually due to tissue weakness. Avoid excessive straining or weightlifting especially as age advances.


Nigel Suggett
Hernias can affect anyone although groin hernias are more common in men. They can occur at any age from children to the elderly. Straining a lot eg. to open bowels or to lift heavy weights can increase the chance of a hernia but usually only when there is already some weakness.


Adam Brooks
Hernias can affect anyone but are more common in men and there may be a history of hernias in the family. They are also more common in smokers. There is little you can do to reduce the risk of getting a hernia.

Abhay Chopada
Hernias which are at a risk of complications like bowel obstruction are best repaired surgically either with open surgery or keyhole surgery. It is best to get qualified medical opinion if you suspect you have a hernia.


Nigel Suggett
Surgery is the only way of truly fixing a hernia.  This usually involves closing the hole and reinforcing with ‘mesh’ and may be done as an open procedure or laparoscopic (keyhole).


Adam Brooks
Abdominal wall hernias can be repaired either by traditional open surgery or by keyhole surgery where 3 tiny holes are made in the abdominal wall and the hernia repaired using a synthetic mesh.

Abhay Chopada
Surgery for hernia effectively repairs the hernia and strengthens the tissue usually with a mesh. This will prevent any future complications related to the hernia.


Nigel Suggett
Surgery will get rid of the bulge and associated pain and removes the risk of strangulation. For large abdominal hernias, bringing the muscles back together may also help with movement and posture.


Adam Brooks
Hernia surgery relieves the symptoms of the hernia, prevents it increasing in size and avoids acute pain or strangulation of the hernia.

Abhay Chopada
The surgery is very routine and usually risk free. The common problem following hernia surgery is usually some bruising and numbness in the area. Rarely there may be more pain or blood collection (usually self-resolving) . The surgery does not interfere with your sexual function.
The surgeon will discuss your individual risk profile before surgery.


Nigel Suggett
It all depends on the size of the hernia! Repair of small hernias is usually straightforward with few complications and a low recurrence rate although some patients have some pain and numbness afterwards. Large incisional hernias can be much more complex, involving bowel and have more risks and a higher recurrence rate.


Adam Brooks
The risks of hernia surgery are very small. Like any operation on the abdomen there is a risk of bleeding or injury to the bowel and wound infection. About 1 hernia in 100 will recur after a repair.

Abhay Chopada
Small hernias especially of direct type can be observed over time. In patients who cannot have surgery due to their poor health can sometimes benefit from a temporary truss whist they prepare for surgery.


Nigel Suggett
Although surgery is the only ‘cure’, where surgery is not advisable or wanted, a belt or truss may provide symptomatic relief.  There may be a role for physiotherapy where there is not a true hernia but muscle weakness.


Adam Brooks
There are no real alternatives to surgery. In the old days people used to wear a truss, but we no longer recommend these as they are uncomfortable and ineffective.

Abhay Chopada
Surgery has been my passion which lead me to join medicine and scale the ladder. I enjoy the fact that I can help people and see the result of my efforts in alleviating suffering.


Nigel Suggett
Although I went to medical school to learn about how the body works, what I really love now is the combination of the hand-on practical skills of surgery combined with the patient and family contact. It is really satisfying to see someone come back after an operation with a great outcome.


Adam Brooks
I wanted to be a doctor from the age of about 15 and knew fairly early in medical school that I wanted to be a surgeon. I love the variation in surgery, the technical challenge and the opportunity to really help people improve their chances of survival and quality of life.

Abhay Chopada
To me every heart-felt thank you from my patients remind me of the humility that I need to continue in this noble profession. My career highlights like passing my masters with top honours pale in insignificance with my day to day satisfaction.


Nigel Suggett
Becoming head of the General Surgery Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital 2 years ago has allowed me to really contribute to the service there. I think it is important to maintain a balance between NHS and private work and I enjoy the interactions with my colleagues that this brings.


Adam Brooks
Undoubtedly the highlight of my career was deploying with the military as a surgeon and looking after service personnel on deployment.


Find out more about hernia repair, or make an online enquiry.

  • Man Men's Health Discover engaging articles dedicated to male health. This includes advice, trends and interviews with our top male health Consultants.
  • Woman Women's Health Stay on top of your health with our tips, advice and Q&A’s with leading women’s health Consultants.
  • Runners Health and Wellbeing Get inspired for a healthier you. Find the latest in healthy living and fitness tips, as well as our medical and treatment updates.
  • Man Men's Health Discover engaging articles dedicated to male health. This includes advice, trends and interviews with our top male health Consultants.
  • Woman Women's Health Stay on top of your health with our tips, advice and Q&A’s with leading women’s health Consultants.
  • Runner Health and Wellbeing Get inspired for a healthier you. Find the latest in healthy living and fitness tips, as well as our medical and treatment updates.