WHAT IS AN INGUINAL HERNIA?
An inguinal hernia is the most common type of hernia. It can appear as a swelling or lump in your groin, or as an enlarged scrotum (the pouch containing the testicles). The swelling may be painful.
The lump often appears when you’re lifting something and disappears when you lie down.
WHAT CAUSES AN INGUINAL HERNIA?
An inguinal hernia usually occurs when fatty tissue or a part of your bowel, such as the intestine, pokes through into your groin at the top of your inner thigh. It pushes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle wall (the abdominal wall) into an area called the inguinal canal.
Inguinal hernias occur mainly in men. Most are thought to result from ageing, although they can occur at any age. This is because as you get older, the muscles surrounding your abdomen (tummy) can become weaker.
Inguinal hernias can sometimes appear suddenly after putting pressure on the abdomen, such as straining on the toilet if you have constipation or carrying and pushing heavy loads. They have also been linked to having a persistent, heavy cough.
Inguinal hernias can be repaired using surgery to push the bulge back into place and strengthen the weakness in the abdominal wall. The operation is usually recommended if you have a hernia that causes pain, severe or persistent symptoms, or if any serious complications develop.
Complications that can develop as a result of an inguinal hernia include:
- obstruction – where a section of the bowel becomes stuck in the inguinal canal, causing nausea, vomiting and stomach pain, as well as a painful lump in the groin
- strangulation – where a section of bowel becomes trapped and its blood supply is cut off; this requires emergency surgery within hours to release the trapped tissue and restore its blood supply so it doesn’t die
Surgery gets rid of the hernia to prevent any serious complications, but there’s a chance it could return after the operation.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING SURGERY?
There are 2 ways an inguinal hernia repair can be performed:
- open surgery – where a cut is made to allow the surgeon to push the lump back into the abdomen
- laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery – a less invasive, but more difficult, technique where several smaller cuts are made, allowing the surgeon to use various special instruments to repair the hernia
There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. The type of surgery you have depends on which method suits you and your surgeon’s recommendation.
You should be able to go home the same day or the day after surgery. It’s important to follow the hospital’s instructions on how to look after yourself. This includes eating a good diet to avoid constipation, caring for the wound, and not straining yourself too soon. Most people make a full recovery from inguinal hernia repair within 6 weeks, although many people can return to driving, work and light activities within 2 weeks.
Read more about hernia repair surgery here.