Are you experiencing pain or discomfort in your upper abdomen? Have you noticed a bulge or swelling in that area? You may be wondering if you have an epigastric hernia. Our specialists at Core Surgical in New York City explore the symptoms, causes and treatment options for this type of hernia.
What is an Epigastric Hernia?
An epigastric hernia occurs an abdominal muscle weakness allows the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) and abdominal fat tissue to push through the muscle wall, creating a bulge or swelling in the upper abdomen. This type of hernia is more common in men than women and typically develops in adults between 20 and 50.
Risk factors for developing an epigastric hernia include:
- Lifting heavy weight
- Strenuous activities
- Steroid use
- A previous pregnancy
These conditions and activities weaken abdominal muscles and stretch the abdominal wall, often causing epigastric hernias.
Symptoms of an Epigastric Hernia
The most common symptom of an epigastric hernia is a small bulge or swelling in the upper abdomen, often accompanied by pain or discomfort. This type of hernia can appear and disappear. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, constipation or pain when trying to have a bowel movement.
An incarcerated hernia is an epigastric hernia that gets stuck in the out position. Very often, an incarcerated hernia can become a strangulated hernia, where the tissue that bulges through the abdominal muscles is starved of its blood supply and can die. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Diagnosing an Epigastric Hernia
If you suspect that you have an epigastric hernia, it is important to seek medical attention. The talented team at Core Surgical will perform a physical exam and may order imaging tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. Generally, an epigastric hernia is easy to diagnose because of the visible, painful bulge in the abdomen. Further scanning will determine if the hernia has become strangulated.
Minimally Invasive Laparoscopic Epigastric Hernia Repair
Treatment for an epigastric hernia involves surgery to repair the weakened abdominal muscles. Our board-certified hernia specialists at Core Surgical typically recommend laparoscopic surgery, which involves making small incisions and using a camera and specialized tools to repair the hernia.
During the surgery, your surgeon isolates the hernia and returns it to its proper position. Then they may suture smaller muscle openings closed; for larger openings in the abdominal wall, a mesh graft can close the gap and add strength to prevent future hernias.
Most hernia patients can return to their normal activity within six weeks.
Preventing an Epigastric Hernia
While some risk factors for epigastric hernias, such as genetics, cannot be controlled, you can take steps to reduce your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding heavy lifting and practicing proper posture can all help to strengthen your abdominal muscles and reduce your risk of developing a hernia.
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your upper abdomen, it is important to seek medical attention to determine if you have an epigastric hernia. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people can fully recover and return to their normal activities.
Contact the team at Core Surgical in NYC if you have concerned about an epigastric or other type of hernia. Our hernia specialists can quickly diagnose and treat hernias and return you to better health.