A hernia occurs when an organ or fatty tissue squeezes through a weak spot in a surrounding muscle or connective tissue (called fascia). The most common types are inguinal (inner groin), incisional (resulting from an incision), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), and hiatal (upper stomach).
Hernias are fairly common and you or a loved one may have suffered from one of these types of hernias.
For example, in today’s Roanoke Times, Dr. Paul Donohue and Dr. Keith Roach explain that most abdominal hernias are the result of an abdominal wall weakness which has been present since birth. Some heavy lifting can cause the hernia to become obvious but the underlying abdominal wall weakness is what set the stage for the hernia.
While not all hernias require surgery, there can be serious complications from this common procedure.
Not all abdominal hernias need to be surgically repaired. However, a repair is needed if the hernia is painful, is getting larger, or if the abdominal content that came through the hernia gets stuck outside the abdominal wall (called an incarcerated hernia) which can lead to reduced blood flow and tissue death.
A general surgeon is the type of doctor you need to repair an abdominal hernia…but just not any general surgeon. First, you want surgeon who has extensive experience in repairing abdominal hernias. Ask her/him how many abdominal hernia repairs they perform per year. Ask them what their complication rate is…not what the national complication rate is as reported by some medical journal. Ask them whether they intend to repair the hernia with a traditional “open surgery” or whether they will do the repair using a laparoscopic approach. A laparoscopic approach is great (fewer scars and quicker recovery) when performed by an experienced and skillful laparoscopic surgeon. However, in the hands of a less well-trained or inexperienced surgeon it can be a disaster.
We have handled medical malpractice cases involving serious injuries to patients who have submitted to abdominal hernia repairs. Injuries which include perforations to the patient’s colon (bowel) leading to fecal contamination of the abdominal cavity and weeks of unexpected hospitalization.
In sum, abdominal hernia repairs are not simple surgeries where very little can go wrong. Check out your doctor’s experience before the surgery – you will be glad you did.