June is National Hernia Awareness Month

June 22, 2018

By Dr. Claudine Siegert

The purpose of National Hernia Awareness Month is to raise the public knowledge of the warning signs and latest treatment options available regarding hernias. It is estimated that more than 5 million persons have some type of hernia, but only 750,000 people per year actually seek medical attention. Concerns about and pain associated with hernias can prevent people from engaging in activities that they normally love to do, and ignoring symptoms can sometimes lead to life threatening complications. Although the treatment for a hernia usually requires surgery, newer advanced minimally invasive techniques allow for a shorter recovery time and decreased recurrence rates. 

A simple definition of a hernia is a hole, or weakness, in the muscle layer which allows for something (intestine, fat or other organs) to protrude through. The danger of a hernia is when the blood supply to the intestine, or other organs, is compromised leading to a lack of blood flow. This causes severe pain and requires immediate surgical attention.

There are many different types of hernias. Hernias which involve the groin areas (called inguinal hernias) are the most common and account for 70% of hernia repairs. Hernias which involve the abdominal wall (general classification as ventral hernias) can include epigastric (upper abdomen), umbilical (belly button) and incisional (from a previous incision, or surgery). A hiatal hernia is located within the abdominal cavity where the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity, and can sometimes be associated with reflux.

Signs and symptoms of a hernia vary from person to person. Sometimes there is a painless, intermittent bulge, or lump, at the site of the hernia. The pain from a hernia is usually described as a burning, or pressure-type, sensation. Both the bulge and pain can be worsened by activity, such as lifting, and can improve by lying down. Occasionally, there can be a ‘gurgling’ sound when the hernia is pushed back in. This usually indicates bowel within the hernia.

Certain factors put you at higher risk for a hernia. These include:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Straining with bowel movements / constipation
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight gain
  • Persistent coughing, or sneezing
  • Previous surgery
  • Having a colostomy, or ileostomy

Sometimes symptoms with a hernia can be controlled with life-style changes. Most require surgery for repair. Although some larger hernias still require an open procedure, the majority of smaller hernias, especially inguinal, can be performed laparoscopically. This minimally invasive technique can decrease post-operative pain and decrease recovery time. Most are done as an outpatient procedure. Larger hernias can require a more extensive abdominal wall reconstructive surgery. You and the surgeon can determine which procedure is right for you.

 

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Dr. Claudine Siegert, MD, FACS is a board certified General Surgeon who is fellowship trained in laparoscopic and advanced minimally invasive surgery. She has been practicing in Asheville since 2001  and specializes in a wide breadth of services in general surgery. Dr. Siegert sees patients at Blue Mountain Surgery and her office can be reached at 828-251-2523.

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