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Understanding the Different Types of Hernias

Understanding the Different Types of Hernias

Every year in the United States, surgeons perform over a million hernia repair procedures. About four in five of these corrective surgeries are done to repair an inguinal hernia, the kind that occurs in the inner groin area and affects men more often than women.

Inguinal hernias may be the most common hernia type, but they’re not the only type: Hernias can emerge practically anywhere along the abdominal wall, and they can also develop out of sight, within the abdomen. 

Board-certified general surgeon Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, discusses different types of hernias and the comprehensive treatment solutions available at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona.  

How a hernia develops

Your abdominal wall is formed of muscles and connective tissues that help stabilize your core and keep your internal organs in place. A hernia occurs when part of an organ, such as your intestines, or some underlying tissue pushes its way through a separation in your abdominal wall.  

When internal tissues push through the muscular wall that’s meant to contain them, it usually creates a visible bulge just beneath the surface of your skin. This telltale sign of a hernia may appear more prominent when you’re standing or straining; it may also feel painful or achy any time you cough, bend, or lift something heavy.  

Different hernia types

A hernia may develop spontaneously, when intense physical strain puts acute pressure on a vulnerable area of your abdominal wall, or it may develop gradually, when repetitive strain places persistent pressure on a weak spot in your abdominal muscles.  

But where it emerges, not how it emerges, is what determines a hernia’s type. A hernia can occur anywhere along your abdominal wall, and in the case of one type of hernia, within your chest cavity, too. The most common hernias are: 

Inguinal hernia

An inguinal hernia develops when a portion of your intestines and/or some of the membrane that lines your abdominal cavity (omentum) push into your groin through a weak area in your lower abdominal wall along the inguinal canal. 

Inguinal hernias account for three in four hernia diagnoses. While anyone can develop one, men are nine times more likely than women to get an inguinal hernia, especially as they age.

Femoral hernia

This type of hernia is like an inguinal hernia, in that it also occurs in a weak area of the lower abdominal wall. But instead of pushing into your inner groin, the escaping section of intestine or underlying tissue protrudes into your outer groin or upper thigh. Femoral hernias are less common, and they tend to affect older women most often. 

Ventral hernia

A ventral hernia is any hernia that occurs along the abdominal wall above the lower groin area. They often appear along the vertical midline of the abdomen, where connective tissues hold your muscles together. Ventral hernia sub-types include:

Although umbilical and epigastric hernias are more common in babies and children than they are in adults, anyone can develop almost any type of ventral hernia at any age.

Hiatal hernia 

This hidden hernia occurs when an opening in the horizontal sheet of muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen (diaphragm) allows a portion of your stomach to push upward into your chest cavity. 

A hiatal hernia is markedly different from other hernia types because it doesn’t involve the abdominal wall, and the bulge it creates is completely internal. Persistent heartburn is one of its primary symptoms.

Hernia treatment options

Whether you suspect you have a hernia or you were recently diagnosed with one, it’s important to recognize that hernias don’t get better or go away on their own; in fact, many get worse over time.

Some hernias can even increase your risk of developing a rare but potentially life-threatening complication called strangulation. This medical emergency occurs when part of your intestine is trapped in the hernia opening and cut off from its blood supply. 

To avoid this scenario and protect your long-term health, Dr. Serrano may advise you to have hernia repair surgery as soon as possible. As a surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive techniques, he offers laparoscopic hernia repair to minimize tissue damage, reduce infection risk, and foster a faster recovery.

He also offers open surgery for hernias that warrant a more conventional repair approach, as well as watchful waiting services for milder, less threatening hernias that don’t require prompt treatment.

Call 623-321-5663 to learn more about the hernia treatment options at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, or use the online booking feature to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano today. 

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