Treatment options for a hernia
Whether your hernia needs surgical intervention to repair the area depends on the size of the hernia and the severity of the patient’s symptoms.
Treatment options for a hernia include:
Dietary changes can sometimes treat the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. Try to avoid large meals at a single time and try to keep your body weight in a healthy range. If dietary changes don’t seem to help, you will most likely need surgery to fix the hernia.
If you have a hiatal hernia, over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help reduce stomach acid (like antacids, Tums) may help relieve your discomfort and improve symptoms.
If a hernia continues to grow larger and causes pain, it may be the best case for surgical intervention to repair the hernia by sewing the hole in the abdominal wall closed. The surgeon may use surgical mesh to help the wound hold strong and stay closed.
A hernia repair is done if the hernia is large and causing pain. Some hernias, called strangulated hernia, can cut off blood supply. Strangulated hernias require prompt hernia repair surgery.
Adult hernias will never resolve on their own and surgery may be the only way to repair the affected area. In some cases, watchful waiting may be used for a small hernia. But in many cases a hernia may worsen, becoming more difficult to repair as it enlarges. The larger the hernia, the more likely surgical mesh will be needed to reinforce the repair and lower the risk of a future recurrence.
If surgery is the best option, it is best to make sure you visit a specialized hernia surgeon.
The surgeon will suggest the best approach to repair the hernia and how to get you back to activity as soon as possible. Considerations will relate to how to lower the risk of a recurrence of a hernia after surgery.
If an adult has an hernia, surgery is often recommended because the hernia will not get better, and will typically get worse over time, making the surgical repair of the hernia more difficult.
If a hernia requires surgical intervention, there is the old ‘Open Method’ and the new ‘Minimally Invasive Laparoscopic Method’, both of which will fix the hernia depending on the patient’s individual case. Hernias can be repaired with either open or laparoscopic surgery.
A cut is made into the location of the hernia and the protruding tissue is pushed back in the proper place. Then the weakened abdominal muscle wall is stitched back together, sometimes with mesh implanted inside the area to provide extra support. Open surgery requires a longer recovery process.
Minimally Invasive Surgery (laparoscopic and robotic surgery)
Very small incisions are made to allow for the insertion of a tiny camera and miniaturized surgical equipment to repair the hernia using only a few small incisions to complete the procedure. This surgery involves the same type of repairs as the ‘open surgery’ except the wound is much smaller, the patient heals faster, and less chance of infection post operation. Laparoscopic surgery is less damaging to the surrounding tissue than traditional ‘open surgery’.
Not all hernias are suitable for laparoscopic repair.
A skilled surgeon will evaluate your unique condition to determine the most appropriate surgical technique, using evidence-based knowledge to provide the highest likelihood of longterm success with the least pain, recovery time, and expense.
Preventing a Hernia
You can’t prevent the muscle weakness that allows a hernia to occur, especially as you get older and your muscle tissue in the abdominal wall becomes less elastic.
However, you can help reduce the amount of strain on your body. This can help avoid a hernia from developing, or to keep an existing hernia from getting worse.
For example, having a large belly from being overweight and obese can put you at higher risk of straining the abdominal wall. In other cases, you may have a family history of hernias which may indicate that you are at higher risk to develop a hernia at some point in your life. However, it is wise to follow the following guidelines to help reduce your chance from creating a hernia including:
- Try to maintain a healthy body weight
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly
- Don’t lift very heavy weights
- Use correct form when lifting weights or heavy objects. Lifting objects with your knees and not your back. Do not try lifting anything that is beyond your ability.
- No smoking
- Seeing your doctor when you’re sick to avoid developing a persistent cough
- Increase fluid and fiber intake to prevent prolonged hx of chronic constipation
Ergonomics can help, such as:
- Strive for a healthy body weight
- Maintain core muscle strength with LIGHT weights, yoga, walking or cycling
- Be sure to warm up before exercise or strenuous activity – fast movements, high level s of exertion, and excessive pressure on the abdominal wall are risk factors
- Maintain a diet with sufficient fiber and stay hydrated to avoid constipation
- Lift carefully. Bend at the knees, not at the waist, and let your legs do most of the lifting effort! If it’s too heavy, GET HELP!