How Do Surgeons Repair Hernias?

2013-01-25 | |
Last updated: 2014-11-25

For those who have experienced a hernia or the bulging of the intestines through a tear in the groin, there are several ways of dealing with a hernia. The first and simplest method is to control it from popping out by use of a belt or a surgical support – sometimes called a truss. In the past, before the development of good surgical methods of hernia repair trusses were used quite widely to stop hernias being troublesome.

Essentially the support or belt is a tight band that is positioned over the hernia bulge to prevent it from popping out. Because modern surgery is very effective, it is rare for a truss to be used long term for patients. The exception is in very frail patients who are thought to be at high risk for surgery. However frail patients with a hernia are in the minority and the majority of patients with a hernia will undergo surgery of some sort to repair it.

What Surgical Options Exist For Hernia Repair?

The most common surgical operation is called an ‘open repair’. This is where the surgeon makes a small incision over the hernia bulge and ‘reduces’ the hernia, essentially pushing it back inside the body. The surgeon then reduces the gap that the hernia initially bulged through and then usually strengthens the repair with what is called a hernia mesh to stop it from occurring again.

Repairing Hernias With A Reinforcing Mesh

In the last 20 years, a lot of progress has been made in hernia surgery. The development of hernia meshes has allowed surgeons to repair hernias without risking tension in the stitching. This means that the operation is a lot less painful for the patient and the majority of hernia operations can be done in a single day. The other main advantage of these meshes is that the recurrence rate after hernia repair, which used to be very high, is now very low. As a rough guide, about 3% of hernias repaired using a mesh technique can be expected to recur over 5 years. In contrast, the old style involving ‘hand sewn’ techniques had a recurrence rate that was more like 30% at 5 years. This makes hernia meshes a major advantage.

Hernia meshes themselves have also undergone a major improvement over the last few years. New materials are being used to make the meshes lightweight and more pliable, which in turn reduces post-operative pain and discomfort. Shaped meshes are made in a manner that attempts to contour the mesh to the body. Additionally, mesh plugs have been used to help surgeons more effectively fill the gap that results in the hernia.

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Category: Medical Treatment

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