What is an inguinal hernia?
Weak spots can develop in the layer of muscle in the abdominal wall, resulting in the contents of the abdomen pushing through. This produces a lump called a hernia (see figure 1).
An inguinal hernia happens at the inguinal canal. This is a narrow passage in which blood vessels supplying the testicle pass through the abdominal wall.
A hernia can be dangerous because the intestines or other structures within the abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia).
What are the benefits of an inguinal hernia repair?
You should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent you from having any serious complications that a hernia can cause.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
You can sometimes control the hernia with a truss (padded support belt) or simply leave it alone. It will not go away without an operation.
What does the operation involve?
A variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes about three-quarters of an hour.
Your surgeon will make a cut in your groin and remove the ‘hernial sac’. They will strengthen the muscle layer with stitches and will usually insert a synthetic mesh to cover the weak spot.
What complications can happen?
General complications of any operation:
- Infection in the surgical wound
- Unsightly scarring
- Blood clots
Specific complications of this operation:
- Developing a lump
- Difficulty passing urine
- Injury to structures within the hernia
- Temporary weakness of the leg
- Injury to nerves
- Damage to the blood supply of the testicle
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.
You should increase how much you walk around over the first few days after your operation.
You should be able to return to work after two to four weeks depending on the extent of surgery and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice. Occasionally the hernia comes back.
Inguinal hernia repair summary
An inguinal hernia is a common condition caused by a weakness in the abdominal wall, near the inguinal canal. If left untreated, an inguinal hernia can occasionally cause serious complications.
Paying for your operation
Open inguinal hernia repair costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Author: Mr Simon Parsons DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)
Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.
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