An inguinal hernia is an area of weakness in the groin.
What symptoms may I suffer from if I have Inguinal Hernia?
You may notice a swelling or bulge in your groin which expands when you cough, sneeze or strain. As the hernia enlarges, it may trap bowel or other abdominal contents within it. If your hernia becomes painful then you need to see a doctor immediately as you may require an urgent operation.
How to diagnose an Inguinal Hernia?
Usually the diagnosis is straightforward - a swelling or bulge in you groin which expands when you cough, sneeze or strain would suggest that you suffer from an incisional hernia. Rarely it may not be possible to identify a small hernia by examination alone and your surgeon may request a scan.
What treatments are available for Inguinal Hernia?
An inguinal hernia can be repaired using traditional open surgery - in this method, the surgeon makes a cut in the skin directly over the hernia and repairs the defect. A mesh repair is advisable. This technique is simpler and requires less surgical expertise.
An inguinal hernia can also be repaired using a keyhole ("laparoscopic ") technique - this is associated with less pain afterwards and a swifter recovery, but requires a more experienced surgeon.
However, if you have hernia on both sides or a previous open repair has failed then a laparoscopic repair is preferable.
What happens at the first appointment?
Your surgeon will initially take a history and examine you. He will also ensure that you are fit to undergo surgery and an anaesthetic. If you are less than 40 year old and generally very fit then he may suggest an operation without further appointments or tests.
What happens at the subsequent appointments?
Your surgeon will check that all necessary information and reports are available and have been evaluated. He will discuss the results and reports of various investigations. He will discuss with you the various options available to treat your hernia. If you are willing to undergo surgery then he will agree with you a date for the procedure.
Admission for surgery
You must not eat any food from 6 hours before the operation. You are allowed to drink clear fluids, including tea and coffee without milk up to 3 hours before the operation. A nurse will admit you on the day of surgery. The surgeon and the anaesthetist will see you prior to your operation. They will confirm that you are willing to undergo surgery, all preparations are complete and it is safe to proceed with your operation. They will confirm that an appropriate facility is available for you to recover after surgery.
What happens during surgery?
The operation is performed under general anaesthetic and a small ‘telescope’ (laparoscope) is passed into your abdomen above the navel. Your abdomen is filled with carbon dioxide gas, to help see everything properly. Two further small cuts will be made in your abdomen to insert instruments to help with the operation. The surgeon will disconnect the hernia sac from the abdominal wall and then put a mesh in place with metal staples from inside.
What happens in hospital after surgery?
You will be sent to the Ward after the procedure. You will be looked after by a nurse and offered appropriate pain-killers. You will be offered light food and drink. Usually the procedure is performed as a day case and you will be able to return home on the same day, when it is safe to do so. You will need to have a responsible and capable adult to take you home and to look after you for the first 24 hours. You may feel drowsy and develop constipation as a result of your painkillers - hence it is advisable that you drink plenty of fluids. You should not operate machinery during this period. You will have a few small wound dressings which you can remove yourself after one week or a nurse / the surgeon can remove these at a subsequent visit.
You may be kept in hospital for a longer period if you have additional medical problems or if you live alone.
Support available during early recuperation period after surgery
It is advisable to avoid strenuous physical activity for the first 2 weeks to allow proper healing of the wounds. It is usual for you to experience some initial pain in the wounds and in your abdominal wall - you may also experience minor discomfort in the shoulder. Most patients recover fully within 1 month. You will be given a number to ring for advice in case of difficulty.
Further follow up after surgery
You will be given an appointment to see the surgeon again - he will ensure that you have recovered as expected.
Will further surgery be needed?
This is usually not necessary, though rarely surgery may be required if you develop complications or the hernia recurs.