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Inguinal Hernia

Alternate Names

  • hernia
  • Site of inguinal hernia

Definition

A hernia occurs when part of an organ is, for any of a number of reasons, pushed through an opening in the body into a place it does not belong. Inguinal hernias, located in the groin, are the most common type of hernia.

What is going on in the body?

With an inguinal hernia, the intestines bulge through a weak spot in the lower abdomen or groin. The intestines may get pushed down into the genital area. When the bulge is just underneath the skin, it can be quite obvious.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Weak tissues in the abdomen cause an inguinal hernia. This weakness may be present at birth or may develop later in life.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Most hernias can not be prevented, but maintaining proper weight and regular exercise to keep muscles toned may sometimes help to prevent a hernia.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

This type of hernia is diagnosed through a medical history and physical exam. During the exam, the healthcare provider palpates the groin area. He or she asks the person to cough, which increases pressure on the weak tissues. If a hernia is present, it will often bulge out so that it can be felt.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Hernias are often left alone initially and may cause no symptoms. Usually, the intestine bulges out and then goes back to where it belongs. Over time, though, if the hernia has enlarged and is starting to cause more symptoms, it needs to be repaired surgically. Normally the surgery can be scheduled for a convenient time and carried out after careful preparation.
However, occasionally the intestine can bulge out and get stuck. This is dangerous and can cause great pain. The intestine can then become swollen and have its blood supply cut off, a life-threatening circumstance. If this happens, the surgery has to be done as an emergency.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

The main treatment is hernia repair surgery. The goal is to support the weak tissues and prevent the intestines from bulging out of the abdomen. For most hernias, surgery can be done in the morning and the person can go home later that day.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Like any surgery, a hernia repair can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic Occasionally, the place where a hernia has been repaired can burst open or come apart, and the operation has to be done over again.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

The person usually needs only a few days to recover. After recovery, he or she generally can go back to normal activities.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

After a full recovery from surgery, no further monitoring is normally needed. If a person does not want to have surgery, repeat physical exams can be done to see if the hernia is enlarging. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

Sources

Principles of Surgery, 1999, Schwartz et al

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