Hernia (Abdominal Hernia)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What non-surgical treatments are available for an abdominal hernia?

If an inguinal or umbilical hernia is small and does not cause symptoms, a watchful waiting approach may be reasonable. Routine follow-up may be all that is needed, especially if the hernia does not grow in size. However, if the hernia does grow or if there is concern about potential incarceration, then surgery may be recommended. Patients who are at high risk for surgery and anesthesia may be offered this approach.

Trusses, corsets, or binders can hold hernias in place by placing pressure on the skin and abdominal wall. These are temporary approaches and potentially can cause skin damage, breakdown, and infection because of rubbing and chaffing. They are often used in older or debilitated patients who have an increased risk to undergo surgery and when the hernia defect is very large.

Unless the defect is large, umbilical hernias in children tend to resolve on their own by 1 year of age. Surgery may be considered if the hernia is still present at age 3 or 4, or if the defect in the umbilicus is large.

Hiatal hernias by themselves do not cause symptoms. Instead it is the acid reflux that causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Treatment is aimed at decreasing acid production in the stomach and preventing acid from entering the esophagus. For more, please refer to the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) article.

What is the prognosis for an abdominal hernia?

Most patients who undergo elective hernia repair do well. Incisional hernias may recur up to 10% of the time. The prognosis for patients who undergo emergent hernia repair because of incarcerated or strangulated bowel depends upon the extent of surgery, how much intestine is damaged, and their underlying health and physical condition prior to the surgery. For this reason, elective hernia repair is much preferred.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/2/2016

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