When an organ or internal tissue splits into a hole in the muscles, it can cause a hernia. They tend to grow in size, and in rare circumstances, cause life-threatening complications. Unfortunately, hernias do not usually heal on their own. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor might recommend surgery. While this type of surgery is relatively safe, side effects still can happen. When hernia surgery complications occur, it is vital to know what to do and when to see a doctor.
What Is Hernia Repair Surgery?
Hernia repair surgery, also known as herniorrhaphy or hernioplasty, is one of the most practised procedures to fix indications of a symptomatic hernia. It involves pushing the bulge of displaced tissues back inside and repositioning it using a mesh.
However, not all hernias require medical attention. In some cases, small and unprogressive hernias do not cause any symptoms. Therefore, doctors would not require any treatments unless negative symptoms arise.
Depending on the size and severity of the condition, a patient can go home a few hours after hernia repair. The whole recovery period usually takes three to six weeks after the procedure. During this period, patients might experience a sharp pain in the abdominal wall. When this discomfort happens, it is best to let your doctor assess if it is something you should worry about.
Types of Hernia Repair Surgery
There are three types of hernia repair surgery. The size, location, and type of your hernia dictate the type of surgery you need. Your doctor will also take into account your age, weight, and lifestyle.
Below are the different hernia repair options available:
Herniorrhaphy or Tissue Repair
Herniorrhaphy hernia repair is the oldest and most common form of hernia surgery. During this surgical procedure, the doctor makes a long incision directly above the hernia. Afterwards, the cut spreads out to allow access and signals surgery to take place. Using sterilised tools, the doctor returns the displaced organs or tissues to their original site. Following the restoration, removal of the hernial sac happens.
The surgeon will then stitch the sides of the muscle opening or hole from which the hernia protruded. Once the wound undergoes complete sterilisation, the surgeon will perform the final closing of the stitches.
Hernioplasty of Mesh Repair
Also known as tension-free hernia repair, hernioplasty is a more innovative practice that does not involve direct stitching of the incision. Instead, the surgeon will use a flat and sterile mesh as a cover to the muscle opening. This mesh often consists of a combination of flexible plastics such as animal tissue or polypropylene.
The surgeon will start by creating minor cuts around the hole, following the mesh shape. Afterwards, he will stitch the patch onto the healthy tissues around the area. The mesh will act as a protective and healing scaffold for the damaged or fragile tissues covering the hernia as they regrow.
Laparoscopic Inguinal Hernia Repair
During this procedure, the surgeon inflates your abdominal wall with a harmless gas. This technique will allow them to see the organs more clearly. Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair uses an advanced imaging technique to get a better view of the hernia. To do this, your surgeon creates small incisions around the area and inserts a thin tube with a tiny camera, also known as a laparoscope.
In laparoscopic surgery, general anaesthesia is necessary. However, recovery will be much faster. Patients would return to their routine a week earlier than if they went for open surgery.
When to Have Hernia Surgery?
Your doctor would be most likely recommend hernia repair surgery in case of the following instances:
Irreducible or Incarcerated Hernia
When a person experiences incarcerated hernia, organ or tissues fill the hernia sac causing it to become trapped in the abdominal wall. It cannot be moved out into the hole from which it entered, resulting in strangulation. If not treated, there is a higher chance for the blood flow on the tissues to be cut off, ultimately leading to the fatal death of the tissues.
This condition is a surgical emergency that can cause permanent damage. Organs that have been strangulated, such as the intestines, will die if not removed soon, and you can become severely ill as a result.
In some cases, a reducible hernia happens. This type of hernia disappears when you lay down, or you can push it back down into your stomach. A progressive reducible hernia causes pain and discomfort. A surgical procedure is necessary.
What Are Hernia Surgery Complications?
Hernia surgery is generally a safe surgical procedure. However, as with any surgery, there is a possibility of having complications. These include the following:
Inflammation and Swelling
After surgery, it is normal for some side effects to appear at the incision site. The wound would most likely look swollen and red. It may also be painful, especially to the touch.
Your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory or over-the-counter pain medications. It helps reduce inflammation along with its associated symptoms. You can also reduce swelling quickly by applying ice to the region at ten-minute intervals for every hour.
Although any surgical operation carries the risk of infection, there is a higher chance for you to develop one if you had a history of a strangulated hernia. In some cases, a mesh hernia repair can cause infection.
While it is often left inside you to repair and support weakened muscle area, intestinal blockage, organ decay, and tissue loss can decrease the immune response.
Blood clots can form when you do not move for a long time. Since you are under anaesthesia, there is a higher chance for the clotting to take place. After surgery, your doctor might suggest anti-clotting medications to enable blood flow.
There might be a slight feeling of tenderness along the region where hernia repair took place. Unfortunately, some patients develop chronic, long-term groin pain following surgery. According to experts, the treatment can cause damage to specific nerves. If you want to lessen the possibility of experiencing groin pain, laparoscopic surgery might be a better choice.
Aside from groin pain, long-term and generalised pain may happen. It is one of the most common complications that occur in abdominal surgery. When the pain does not diminish as time goes by, there might be an underlying condition that causes it.
When repairs in the compromised muscle region happen, it can cause significant damage to your bladder. Whether you’re having an emergency repair or an elective surgery, a bladder injury can develop.
In rare cases of inguinal hernia surgery, protrusions along the urinary bladder are often mistaken as the hernia sac. This situation should alert the surgeon for an emergency bladder injury repair. During this repair, one or two layers of reconstruction happen.
After surgery, a hernia always can reappear, especially if the area undergoes a strain while it’s healing. According to research, mesh hernioplasty is twice safer as to eliminate the risk of hernia recurrence.
Depending on the type of hernia repair, your surgeon may need to remove a part of your intestine. This surgery is more popular with the term resection, which can often result in digestive complications. If this complication happens, additional surgery for treatment is necessary.
When to See a Doctor?
Days and weeks following surgery, complications may occur. In some cases, severe complications require urgent medical attention. It is crucial to address any noticeable signs of discomfort or irritation after surgery, including fever, growing pain, or a change in the skin around the incision site. Below are some signs and symptoms that require assessment by a doctor:
- There is an inflammation and painful hernia in the incision area for more than a few days following surgery.
- Symptoms worsen and become more intense as time passes by.
- New symptoms develop that are not initially present following the surgery.
- A fever that does not resolve by itself after a few days.
- The hernia starts to bulge and change in colour, especially on a darker shade of purple or red.
- There seems to be a visible change in the skin tint, mostly appearing pale in colour.
- An incision wound that does not heal or any signs of healing after a few days.
- Pain and inflammation that does not seem to respond to ice or any medications.
- There is a presence of discomfort and irritability due to stomach cramps.
- Bowel movements are absent for three or more days.
- Sharp and intense abdominal pain that comes with vomiting.
What Are the Risk Factors for Hernia Repair?
Certain conditions can make hernia repair procedures more challenging and increase the chances of side effects or surgical failure. Here are the common risk factors that you should take note of:
Anyone can develop a hernia regardless of their age. However, according to some research, hernia repair for children has a higher risk of resulting in a bladder injury. The bladder structure might appear as a hernia sac which causes concern on the patient’s urinary system.
Some women develop a hernia during their time of pregnancy. Even after a hernia repair occurs, there is still an increase in the risk of getting a recurrent hernia during delivery.
Abdominal wall hernias are most common for obese individuals. Being overweight can cause significant strain and pressure on your abdominal muscles. The additional weight makes it more prone for the hernia grows in size. If you want to avoid hernia repair complications, it is best to shed some extra weight. By doing so, your muscles will become more capable of handling your weight and prevent hernia expansion.
In some studies, a family history of hernia shows an association with developing a recurring hernia. Additionally, the recurrence rate can also be hereditary, which are more prominent for those who experience inguinal hernias.
Irregular Bowel Movement
Straining due to constipation can lead to a recurrence of a hernia. Aside from abdominal concerns, erratic bowel movement can also obstruct bowel passage. When there is difficulty passing gas or excreting waste, there is a higher chance for straining to occur.
Smokers are generally more at risk of developing infections, groin pain, and recurrence after surgery. Nicotine and tobacco contain harmful chemicals that fight off the immune system, causing more infection to occur. Surgeons and experts often suggest refraining from smoking before and after surgery takes place.
Wrapping It Up
There’s no way to know how a hernia will occur, mainly if it comes from a hereditary weakness in the abdominal wall. When a hernia repair surgery happens, it is best to avoid certain risk factors. Maintaining a solid and stable abdominal wall will help prevent recurrence and increase the success rate of your hernia surgery.