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Ventral Hernia

  • When a ventral hernia occurs, it usually arises in the abdominal wall where a previous surgical incision was made. In this area the abdominal muscles have weakened; this results in a bulge or a tear. In the same way that an inner tube pushes through a damaged tire, the inner lining of the abdomen pushes through the weakened area of the abdominal wall to form a balloon-like sac. This can allow a loop of intestines or other abdominal contents to push into the sac. If the abdominal contents get stuck within the sac, they can become trapped or “incarcerated.” This could lead to potentially serious problems that might require emergency surgery.
  • Ventral hernias do not go away or get better on their own and require surgery to repair. In fact, without treatment, ventral hernias can get larger and worsen with time. Untreated hernias can become difficult to repair and can lead to serious complications, such as strangulation of a portion of the intestine.
The Surgery:
  • Laparoscopic ventral hernia repair is a technique to fix tears or openings in the abdominal wall using small incisions, laparoscopes (small telescopes inserted into the abdomen) and a patch (screen or mesh) to reinforce the abdominal wall.
  • The surgeon makes three to five small cuts in your lower belly. Next, a medical device called a laparoscope is inserted through one of the cuts. The scope is a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end which allows the surgeon to see inside your belly. Your surgeon will make a surgical cut in your abdomen. Your surgeon will the locate the hernia and separate it from the surrounding tissue. Then your surgeon will gently push the contents of the intestine back into the abdomen. The surgeon will only cut the intestines if they have been damaged. Strong stitches will be used to repair the hole or weak spot caused by the hernia. Your surgeon may also lay a piece of mesh over the weak area to make it stronger. While the mesh may reduce the risk of the hernia coming back, it is optional. Please discuss the risks and benefits of using a mesh with your surgeon.
The Recovery:
  • Expect to go home after the procedure, however there is a possibility you may need to spend a few nights in the hospital after your procedure.
  • Repair of your ventral hernia does not require any dietary restrictions after surgery. Many patients find that their appetite is poor for a week or two after surgery. This is a normal result of the stress of surgery and manipulation inside the belly — your appetite should return in time.
  • It is OK to shower starting around 36 hours after surgery. If you have little patches of white gauze or band-aids on the incisions, take off the gauze/band-aids before showering.
  • We ask you to wear your abdominal binder for the first 6 weeks as much as possible, including while sleeping. Most patients find this provides added comfort and reduces pain. It is also important to reduce the fluid that accumulates above the mesh after the repair.
  • There are no medical restrictions on activity after surgery. However, if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Take it easy and let pain be your guide.
  • You may also feel easily fatigued and “washed out” for a week or two following the surgery. These factors will put some limitations on your activity, but you will not cause any damage even if some soreness is experienced.
  • Some patients find that their hernia “returns” right after surgery. Don’t worry — this is a normal feeling and/or appearance. The hernia repair did not fail — the place where the hernia contents was can sometimes fill up with post-operative fluid — this fluid is a normal result of dissection and will usually be absorbed by the body in several weeks.