Q&A Topic: Hernia Repair Methods and Recovery

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Amanda Messina, MD, FACS

Q. What is a hernia?

A. A hernia is an opening within muscles or connective tissue, called fascia, through which intestines or fat protrudes. Hernias tend to occur in the belly through previous incisions, or most commonly in the groin, which is known as an inguinal hernia. They can develop at any age, from birth onward. Hernias may grow over time or they can come on suddenly; they may result from strenuous activity, heavy lifting, during pregnancy, or even from a fit of coughing. You’ll recognize the symptoms of a hernia as a bulge that may be accompanied by a burning or aching sensation.

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Q. What should I do if I think I have a hernia?

A. It’s important to seek medical attention right away if you think you have a hernia. Aside from resting and taking ibuprofen for pain, unfortunately there isn’t a lot that people can do on their own when it comes to treating a hernia. Wearing a supportive garment, such as a truss, isn’t effective in the long run because hernias will not repair themselves. The only definitive treatment is surgery. Hernias, if left untreated, can continue to enlarge, putting you at risk for potentially dangerous complications, like lack of blood supply or strangulation to the intestines. Surgical methods for hernia repair are often dependent on the size of the hernia. Larger hernias can be more complicated to repair, which is why it’s extremely important to make an appointment with your doctor at the first signs of symptoms.

Q. What are the surgical options for treating a hernia?

A. Hernias are treated either by open repair, or minimally invasive surgery, which includes laparoscopy or robot-assisted surgery. At Northern Westchester Hospital, all methods are available and selected based on the size and location of the hernia. Inguinal hernias, or hernias in the groin, require a synthetic mesh to repair and cover the defect, or hole. If the hernia is smaller, or in another location, a mesh/screen may not be necessary. Other methods, like Laparoscopy and robotic hernia repair, allow the surgeon to make smaller incisions with smaller operating tools. With minimally invasive surgery, the patient will have less scarring, less damage to surrounding tissues and often less pain and a shorter recovery. In both types of surgery, the risk of complications is minimal—about the same as any surgical operation. Hernia repairs are ambulatory, or outpatient, procedures. This means patients can go home the same day. The risk of recurrence is slim: There’s about a 5 percent chance that a person will experience another hernia in the same spot or elsewhere.

Q. How long is the recovery period?

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A. I generally recommend patients take a week off from work and that they do not lift anything heavier than 25 pounds for at least six weeks. I typically don’t restrict cardiovascular exercise with my patients and most patients are able to return to regular activities without pain after a few weeks.

Learn More About Dr. Messina
Bariatric Surgery & General Surgery
Northern Westchester Hospital

Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System).


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