Ventral hernias occur when the muscles of the abdominal wall are weakened and internal organs, such as bowel loops and fatty content, push through, creating a bulge. Ventral hernias can be extremely painful, but some people feel no symptoms at all. There are three types of ventral hernias: an epigastric hernia in the stomach area, an umbilical hernia at the belly button area and an incisional hernia, which can result from previous surgery, usually at the site of the scar.
Symptoms of Ventral Hernias
Common symptoms of ventral hernias include pain, nausea, vomiting, a bulge and difficulty passing gas, stools or urine. Pain can range from discomfort to severe sharp pain and is commonly worse during long walks, prolonged standing or sitting and lifting heavy objects. Swelling can occur in the bulged area and may increase when coughing or straining. Some people feel no symptoms at all. However, it is important to have a hernia checked out by a specialist. If a hernia becomes trapped, it can lead to a strangulated or obstructed hernia that requires emergency medical treatment.
Causes of Ventral Hernias
There are many causes that contribute to ventral hernias. As many as 1 in 3 abdominal surgeries result in an incisional hernia and can happen months or years after the surgery. Frequent or chronic coughing, lifting heavy objects, pregnancy and being overweight are all common causes that lead to the development of ventral hernias.
Lung diseases, such as COPD and emphysema, also put a strain on the abdominal wall. The elasticity of the abdominal wall is lost with older age. Other causes that can contribute toward ventral hernias include a hereditary weak abdominal wall, a family history of hernias, diabetes, severe vomiting, an injury to the bowel area and prostate issues.
Treatments for Ventral Hernias
Ventral hernias are confirmed with tests that may include an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan. If a specialist suggests treatment, the only option is surgery. This is more likely if the hernia causes pain or other symptoms, or if it becomes trapped. The surgical treatments are laparoscopic hernia repair, also referred to as keyhole surgery, and open hernia repair. Laparoscopic surgery is recommended for most patients. During the surgery, a mesh is fixed to the intra-abdominal wall to reduce the chance of recurrence. The advantages of laparoscopic surgery include a few small incisions, a lower chance of infection, reduced recovery time and hospital stay, minimal scarring and less pain. Open hernia repair may be suggested for patients who are not fit to receive anesthesia, a requirement of laparoscopic surgery.
If you have any signs and symptoms of a hernia, see a specialist before it has the chance to become more serious. Click here to schedule an appointment with Core Surgical, or call us at (212) 628-8771.