An abdominal hernia
is the protrusion of the abdominal contents through a gap in the abdominal muscles or ligaments and can occur in a number of places. Most commonly they occur at the umbilicus (belly button), but they most commonly cause problems when they occur in the groin. Hernias can also occur through operative incisions, and the stomach can herniate through the diaphragm into the chest - a hiatus hernia. Hernias can gradually develop over time, or can occur suddenly through a “rupture” in the muscle - for example, when suddenly lifting something too heavy at work. These sorts of sudden hernias can be attributed to specific events, but the cause of a hernia that develops gradually can be more difficult to determine.
Most hernias require surgical repair because of the risk of strangulation of the bowel if it becomes caught in the hernia. There isn’t really any other good treatment option; trusses (supports) can make things more comfortable in the short term, but don’t seem to prevent hernias from getting bigger or causing problems.
Hernias are repaired using sutures and/or a plastic mesh to reinforce the muscles. The mesh is usually designed to stay in permanently. In experienced hands, laparoscopic, or keyhole hernia repair, can be less painful and result in a quicker return to normal activities.
There are usually no restrictions on lifestyle or activities after a hernia has been repaired once recovery is complete. Laparoscopic surgery for a hernia is usually done as a day procedure i.e. going home the same day and painkiller tablets are usually all that is needed to stay comfortable in the post-operative period.