If you have a hernia, which occurs when abdominal material pushes through a weak spot or hole in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue, you are far from alone. In fact, you are among an estimated five million Americans who have an abdominal hernia. This condition may be caused by straining or weakness in the area, but in the majority of patients, it has no known cause.
Once you’ve had a hernia, you’re more susceptible for another at the same site. The muscles or connective tissue is still weak. Surgeons have a solution, however—it’s called hernia repair, and it helps keep all your insides where they belong: on the inside.
Types of Hernias
There are various types of hernias, depending on their location. These include:
- Inguinal hernia: Considered the most common type of abdominal hernia, it is caused when intestines push through a weak opening in the abdominal wall or groin area.
- Femoral hernia: This is an uncommon type of hernia that results in a painful lump in the groin or inner thigh.
- Umbilical hernia: A bulge at the belly button.
- Incisional hernia: This type of hernia occurs on a healing surgical scar.
- Epigastric hernia: This appears as a lump located between the belly button and sternum (upper chest).
- Hiatal hernia: This type of hernia happens when the upper part of the stomach bulges through the large muscle (diaphragm) that separates the abdomen and the chest.
In some cases, there are no symptoms of a hernia. But when there are, these symptoms may include:
- Bulge or swelling on either side of the pubic bone, made more obvious when coughing or straining
- Pain in the pelvis, abdomen or testicle
- Abdominal distension
- A bulge in the abdomen or the belly button
- For a hiatal hernia, heartburn or trouble swallowing
While millions of people have hernias, less than 15 percent of them seek medical treatment annually. However, an untreated hernia can lead to more serious conditions, which can even become life-threatening.
Often, patients fear surgery, but hernia surgery can be done as an outpatient procedure. Recovery depends on the size of the hernia but is usually minimal. The use of hernia mesh can strengthen the site of hernia and help prevent recurrence.
Patching the weak area of a hernia or closing up a hole with loosely woven flexible mesh is a stronger option than simply stitching the area. Since hernias have a high probability of recurrence, surgeons use hernia mesh to strengthen the repair and lessen the chances of that recurrence.
The advantage of the surgical mesh is that it allows the tension created by the repair to be spread across the abdominal wall, which in turn allows the patient to have normal movement after surgery.
In fact, 90 percent of the one million hernia repairs done annually in the U.S. use mesh. The mesh used for this surgery is usually the synthetic variety, made of polypropylene (petroleum) plastic. It is considered a permanent implant.
There has been some recent controversy due to the recall of surgical mesh by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but if you have or need a mesh implant, we are here to discuss the options with you.
Most of the mesh controversy stems from the use of transvaginal mesh. Surgical transvaginal mesh is used in urogynecologic repair of conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Because these are different conditions in different areas of the body than hernias, using mesh in these repairs can lead to side effects and complications not seen in hernia repairs.
On April 16, 2019, the FDA ordered a halt to the sale and distribution of the two remaining companies that manufacturer transvaginal surgical mesh, stating that there is insufficient evidence to assure that probable benefits outweigh the probable risks in use of this mesh.
According to the FDA, any complications from mesh hernia repair have been associated with mesh products used in the past, which have been recalled and are no longer on the market. If you have had or will have a hernia repair using surgical mesh, this recall doesn’t pertain to abdominal wall hernias.
Conferring With Your Doctor
Like all surgical procedures, use of surgical mesh has some risks. That is why a qualified expert can help determine the best course of action for you, and the best surgical options. For certain hernias, and when the procedure is done correctly, experts say hernia mesh is very safe.
At Advanced Laparoscopic Associates, our experienced team of experts can help you determine the best treatments depending on your individual hernia condition. Request an appointment today with one of our team of qualified experts.