Hernia is derived from the Latin word for 'rupture'.
What is a hernia?
A hernia is an abnormal protrusion of an organ through the wall of the cavity in which it normally resides.
In the abdomen, a hernia occurs when intra-abdominal contents (e.g. bowel) pushes through a weakness in the abdominal wall muscles.
The common types of hernias occurring in the abdomen are:
Who develops hernias?
Hernias are associated with either weak abdominal wall muscles or raised intra-abdominal pressure (or both). Certain factors increase the risk of developing a hernia:
- Chronic cough, constipation or urinary retention
- History of heavy lifting
- Previous abdominal surgeries
What are the symptoms of a hernia?
- A lump that comes and goes, and is more obvious on standing or straining
- Pain, discomfort or 'dragging' sensation at the site
- Incarceration (see below)
- Strangulation (see below)
What problems can hernias cause?
Over time hernias tend to get bigger as the defect in the muscle stretches to allow more intra-abdominal contents to slip in and out. Complications of hernias include:
This is when intra-abdominal contents come out and stay out and are unable to be pushed back in. It typically causes discomfort or mild to moderate pain.
This is when intra-abdominal contents come out and cannot be pushed back in and where the defect causes pressure on the blood vessels so that the contents are deprived of blood supply. It typically causes severe pain and requires emergency surgery.
How are hernias diagnosed?
Most hernias are diagnosed through a clinical examination by your doctor. Sometimes ultrasound and/or CT scans are required to rule out other causes of symptoms and diagnose the hernia.
What are the treatments for hernias?
Symptoms due to a hernia tend to persist if left untreated. Strangulated hernias require urgent surgery.
Patients with hernias, that are fit enough to undergo surgery, should have hernias repaired before complications occur.