The surgeons of Crozer Health ’s Comprehensive Hernia Program are dedicated to the diagnosis, management and repair of all types of hernias.
Our physicians offer a personalized, full-service approach to hernia repair, including:
- Minimally-invasive, open and robotic surgeries
- Component separation technique for large or complex hernias
- Post-procedure follow-up care
Our surgeons work closely with their patients to construct a treatment plan that best fits their lifestyle, with a goal to return patients to activities of daily living as quickly and safely as possible.
Common Questions about Hernia
What is a hernia?
You’ve probably heard that you can get a hernia from lifting heavy objects. While that’s partly true, hernias aren’t quite that simple. There are several types of hernias that can affect various parts of the body, on anyone from newborn babies to adults. While they have similarities, the symptoms may be different. Knowing what to look for can help you recognize when you may have a hernia.
All hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and a weakness or opening in a muscle. When there is a weak spot in a muscle surrounding an organ, the organ or fatty tissue can squeeze through. This muscle weakness can start at birth or happen later in life.
Hernias are most often found in the abdomen, between the chest and the hips. The most common types of hernias include:
- Inguinal hernia: The most common type of hernia, inguinal hernias occur when fatty tissue or part of the intestine pushes through to the groin. Inguinal hernias affect more men than women.
- Femoral hernia: Like inguinal hernias, femoral hernias are a result of the intestine protruding into the groin. Older women are most likely to suffer from this type of hernia.
- Umbilical hernia: In the case of umbilical hernias, fatty tissue or part of the intestine pokes through the abdomen by the belly button.
- Hiatal (or hiatus) hernia: Hiatal hernias occur when part of the stomach pushes into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm.
- Complex hernia: Complex hernias are also called recurrent hernias, because they are cases in which a prior surgical repair has failed. This is often due to weak surrounding tissue from prior scars or injuries.
Inguinal and femoral hernias make up almost 80 percent of all hernia cases, though 10-20 percent of all newborns are affected by umbilical hernias.
How can you tell if you have a hernia?
The most noticeable symptom is a lump or a bulge in the abdomen, groin, or scrotum. The lump often becomes more prominent after laughing, coughing, a bowel movement, or exercise. Other common symptoms include:
- Weakness, pressure, or pain in the abdomen, groin, or scrotum
- Increase in the lump’s size
- An aching sensation
- Constipation or bloody stool
- Discomfort when lifting or bending over
Be aware that the symptoms of a hiatal hernia are somewhat different. There is no lump or bulge, but rather heartburn, indigestion, and chest pain. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor for more information.
How are hernias treated?
Your doctor will first give you a comprehensive physical exam. Commonly, a hernia can be felt or seen from swelling under the skin. You may also need an ultrasound or X-ray to locate the hernia or see if there is a bowel obstruction.
Hernias can be treated with two types of surgery. The first type is called an open surgery, where the surgeon makes a cut and pushes the lump back into the abdomen. The other is laparoscopic or “keyhole surgery,” which involves using very small incisions and surgical tools to repair the hernia. Learn more about robotic laparoscopic surgery.
Fortunately, hernia repair is one of the most common surgeries in the United States and requires only limited recovery time.
What if my hernia is not treated?
Sometimes it is possible to live with a hernia and monitor it, but over time it can grow and become more painful. If an inguinal or femoral hernia is not treated, there is a risk the hernia may cut off blood flow and strangulate the protruding organ. This can lead to infection or even death.
Hernias are a common condition that won’t complicate your life for long if properly treated. If you think you may have one, talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.
A Proactive Approach to Hernia Repair
Hernias were once considered just a hole in the abdominal wall that required a simple repair. But research during the past several years is now showing that it’s not always so straightforward.
Learn more about hernia repair.