Common Hernia Treatments

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Doctor's View on Common Hernia Treatments

Comment by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

What is a hernia?

Hernias are bulges of material, usually contained in a body cavity, that protrude through the cavity's wall. Although hernias may infrequently occur in many parts of the body, the usual hernias encountered are composed of intestines or abdominal fatty tissue that is pushed through a defect, weakness, or entry/exit sites of structures that normally pass through in the abdominal wall (for example, the femoral canal or the closed pathway where the testicles descended during fetal development). Abdominal hernias can occur in men, women, and children at any age, but most occur in middle-aged and elderly men. They are diagnosed by feeling the bulge in the abdomen. The type of hernia depends on where it occurs (inguinal, femoral, umbilical, and others). Any condition that increases pressure on the abdominal cavity may cause a hernia (for example, coughing, heavy lifting, straining during a bowel movement, obesity). Although some hernias are painless, many are not and may lead to nausea and vomiting. Some hernias can be reduced (pushed back into the cavity) others may not (incarcerated hernias). If the incarcerated hernia is so tight that it cuts off the blood supply to the intestine segment that forms the bulge, the hernia is termed strangulated and is a medical emergency; however, any irreducible hernia needs medical evaluation.

Common hernia treatments

Surgical repair is indicated for most hernias. All irreducible hernias need immediate evaluation because of the possibility of becoming strangulated. In some situations, surgery may be delayed or unable to be performed. Your doctor may prescribe trusses or belts to help keep the hernia reduced. People with hernias and those that have had surgical repair of hernias should avoid heavy lifting and other activities that cause high intra-abdominal pressure.

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