Between 2015-2016, over 62,000 Australians underwent hernia procedures. Luckily, hernia repair is a quick and safe surgical procedure with minimal recovery time.
While most hernias aren’t life-threatening, they unfortunately do not go away with time and often require surgery.
If your doctor has diagnosed you with a hernia, our surgical team at the Centre for Gastrointestinal Health are specialists in hernia repair and ensure the best possible outcomes from your procedure.
A hernia is when fatty tissue or organs push through an opening in the connective tissue or muscle wall that initially held it in place. This results in a lump forming, which is called a hernia. The pouch that contains the fatty tissue or organ is called the hernial sac.
For example, if the tissue in your abdominal wall is weakened, your intestines can push through and create a noticeable bulge in your lower abdomen.
The normal location for hernias are around your abdominal area, which is between your chest and hips. However, you can also find them around your groin and upper thigh.
The location of your hernia can indicate its type.
There are several types of hernias. Some common ones that you are likely to find are:
Hernias develop as a result of a weakness or muscle strain in the abdominal wall. Depending on the cause, a hernia can occur in a singular event or over an extended period of time.
The ways that can you develop a hernia are:
You can’t always prevent hernias from developing, especially if you have a family history of the condition or have recently had surgery.
Although, you can decrease your risk of getting a hernia with a few small lifestyle changes that reduce the strain inflicted on your muscular wall.
Some lifestyle changes you can consider include:
Your local GP will feel for a bulge around your abdomen and groin when conducting a physical examination. They may ask you to stand and then cough or strain to see if the bulge increases in size.
Your GP can also use imaging tools to observe the hernia. This will require you to have either an abdominal ultrasound, a CT scan or an MRI.
If your GP thinks that you may have a hiatal hernia, you will have to complete an endoscopy so they can assess your stomach internally. An endoscopy is when a doctor places a tube that is attached with a small camera down your throat and into your stomach.
Once diagnosed, your GP may refer you to a specialist such as the Centre for Gastrointestinal Health to discuss hernia repair procedure options.
There are multiple procedures available depending on the size, type and regularity of your hernia. The two most common types of hernia repair procedures are:
Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive repair where the surgeon makes three small incisions and inserts a laparoscope into your abdomen. A laparoscope is a thin rod attached with a camera and a light that helps the surgeon find the hernia sac.
To create space in the internal region, the surgeon will also inflate your abdomen with carbon dioxide (a non-toxic gas) to find the hernia and the weak point in the internal muscle layer.
Once located, the surgeon will slip the protruding organ back into place and sew the area shut. Sometimes it may be necessary to place a synthetic mesh on the abdominal wall to help strengthen the tissue.
The tiny incisions are then closed by either surgical tape or a few stitches.
Depending on the size of the hernia, the procedure should take between 30-60 minutes. You will be asleep for the entire procedure under general anesthesia.
Open hernia repair involves the surgeon making one 5-10cm incision over the bulge.
The protruding fatty tissue or organ is then gently slipped back into place, and the opening in the abdominal wall is sewn shut.
The surgeon will then re-enforce the weakened muscle layer with a synthetic mesh patch before closing the original incision with stitches.
The hernia surgery takes around 45 minutes and is performed under general anesthesia.
Robotic hernia repair is similar to laparoscopic surgery as they both use a few small incisions to complete the procedure. Similarly, the surgeon finds the hernia and slips the organs back into place before sewing the weakened tissue shut.
However, this hernia surgery is different as it uses robotic technology to provide clear three-dimensional images of the internal structures of the abdomen. The surgeon completes the entire procedure through a control console.
A benefit of robotic hernia repair is that the surgeon can easily use stitches to sew the weakened tissue and apply the surgical mesh effectively.
The procedure takes approximately 30-45 minutes, and you will be under general anesthesia for its entirety.
An abdominal wall reconstruction is most commonly for patients who have had previous unsuccessful repair procedures and have a hernia defect.
A surgeon will make a long incision in the hernia area and then restructure the internal tissues to support the weakened muscle layer. The restructuring of internal tissues requires the surgeon to separate and reorganise the abdominal wall layers into a natural position.
As a result, the surgeon will restore the structural and functional integrity of the abdominal wall to ensure that no more hernias can emerge.
Complex hernia repairs can take between 2-6 hours. However, you will be under general anesthesia the whole time.
Laparoscopic surgery is the preferred treatment due to its minimally invasive procedure. While open surgery is still effective, studies have indicated that laparoscopic techniques are more favourable.
The benefits of laparoscopic hernia surgery are:
If you're an adult, hernias are unlikely to leave the body naturally or go away with time. Therefore, it is important to repair your hernia as soon as possible before they start to inflict damage on your body.
For instance, by ignoring a hernia you can increase the chance of bowel obstruction, which can cause life-threatening conditions and severe pain.
Avoiding hernia repair will also increase daily discomfort, particularly when standing for long periods of time or walking over large distances. The chronic pain will also impact any activity that places your body under strain, such as lifting heavy objects. For inguinal hernias, discomfort may emerge from your testicular region.
Furthermore, the longer you wait for a repair procedure, the larger the hernia sac can grow. Very large hernias are more challenging to repair and can increase your chances of serious complications during and after the procedure.
You will be able to leave the hospital on the same day as your surgery. However, different recovery guidelines depend on the type of surgery that you underwent.
Unless advised otherwise by your surgeon, if you underwent a underwent keyhole surgery (laparoscopic or robotic hernia repair), you should:
Although the incidence of post-operation problems are minimal, there have been some reported complications that emerge from both keyhole surgery and open surgery.
These complications include:
Your recovery time will depend on the type of hernia repair surgery. You should always consult your local GP or surgeon before returning to normal activities.
The general guidelines are 1-2 weeks for minimally invasive keyhole surgery (laparoscopic surgery or robotic hernia repair) and 2-4 weeks for open surgery.
Yes. Australian residents who access repair procedures as a public patient will be covered by Medicare.
If you have private health insurance, get in touch with your provider to see how much they will cover.
The average cost for hernia repair is $5,610, however, the exact costing will depend on your individual circumstances so it is best to consult our specialists for further details.
Although hernia repair is a common procedure, it is considered a major surgery. However, the likelihood of complications are minimal.
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