Maybe you were lifting something heavy the first time you felt a sharp pain in your groin, or perhaps you were just bending down to tie your shoes. If you’re like most people, you probably thought you merely pulled a muscle.
In most cases, this symptom is actually the tell-tale sign of a common medical problem called a hernia. At Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy, board-certified general surgeon Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, takes a minimally invasive approach to hernia repair that aims to resolve the problem for good. Here’s what you should know.
Simply put, a hernia occurs when internal tissues push through the wall of muscle that’s meant to contain them. While it can appear anywhere on your abdominal wall (and in the case of a hiatal hernia, within your chest cavity), as many as four in five hernias occur in the lowest part of the abdomen, or the groin.
This kind of hernia occurs when part of your intestines and/or part of the membrane that lines your abdominal cavity (omentum) protrudes through a weak spot in your lower abdominal wall, usually along the inguinal canal.
With an inguinal hernia, underlying tissues push into your groin just above your inner thigh. As the most common type of hernia by far, inguinal hernias affect men most often — in fact, men are eight times more likely than women to develop the problem.
Although much less common, femoral hernias tend to affect older women most often. It occurs when underlying tissues push through your outer groin and into your upper thigh.
A hernia that occurs above the groin is called a ventral hernia. Ventral hernias often develop along the vertical midline of the abdomen, within the connective tissue holds your muscles together.
A ventral hernia that appears near your navel (belly button), is called an umbilical hernia; one that emerges at the site of a surgical scar is called an incisional hernia.
A hiatal hernia is different from other types of hernias because it’s situated deep inside your body. It occurs when part of your stomach pushes through the horizontal sheet of muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen (diaphragm) and bulges into your chest cavity.
Hernias are typically brought on by intense physical strain that puts increased pressure on both the organs in your abdomen and an area of weakened tissue in your abdominal wall.
A hernia may appear suddenly after you lift something heavy, or it may develop gradually after years of pressure and strained movement from chronic constipation, coughing, or sneezing.
Common hernia symptoms include:
Early on, your hernia bulge may disappear when you lie down, or you may be able to painlessly push it back in yourself. If the bulge grows bigger over time, however, it may no longer be able to retract inward.
Given that it’s completely internal, a hiatal hernia causes an entirely different set of symptoms, including indigestion, heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and chest pain and pressure.
A hernia that’s painful or progressing requires prompt medical attention, especially if you want to avoid dangerous complications like incarceration or strangulation.
An incarcerated hernia occurs when part of your intestine becomes trapped in your abdominal wall. When localized swelling “strangles” an incarcerated hernia and cuts off its blood supply, tissue death (necrosis) is close behind; this life-threatening problem usually calls for emergency surgery.
Because hernias don’t heal on their own — and because there are no conservative treatments to help them improve — surgical repair is the only solution. During hernia surgery, Dr. Serrano carefully repositions the bulging tissue back behind the abdominal wall.
Then, to reinforce your abdominal wall and reduce the likelihood of recurrence, he inserts a special biocompatible implant called surgical mesh. Compared to conventional internal sutures, surgical mesh is associated with reduced operative time, minimized recovery time, and overall improved patient outcomes.
Although Dr. Serrano uses minimally invasive laparoscopic hernia repair techniques whenever possible, he can also perform a hernia repair through traditional open surgery when necessary.
If you suspect you have a hernia, the team at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy can help. Call our Glendale, Arizona, office today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano any time.