Abdominal Hernia

An abdominal hernia is an opening or weakness in the muscles of the wall of the abdomen. This bulging is usually more noticeable when the abdominal muscles are tightened, thereby increasing the pressure in the abdomen. Serious complications from a hernia can result from the trapping of tissues in the hernia -- a process called incarceration. Trapped or incarcerated tissues may have their blood supply cut off, leading to damage or death of the tissue. The treatment of an incarceration usually involves surgery.

The most common location for hernias is the groin area. Another type of hernia, called a ventral hernia, occurs in the middle of the abdomen around the navel. Hernias can also occur at any scar from prior abdominal surgery.

Symptoms of a hernia include pain or discomfort and a localized swelling somewhere on the surface of the abdomen or in the groin area. A hernia can also be painless and only appear as a bulging. In general, hernias that are at risk for complications, which cause pain, or that limit activity should be repaired. If they are not repaired, there is a risk that an emergency surgical procedure may be required at a later date.

A hernia repair requires surgery. Following appropriate anesthesia and sterilization of the surgical site, an incision is made over the area of the hernia and carried down carefully to the muscle layer. The hole is then closed, usually by some combination of suture and a screen mesh which bridges the hole or weakness with a piece. The mesh is a permanent material and, when sewn to the edges of the defect, it allows the body's normal healing process to incorporate it into the local structures. Hernia repair with mesh has proved to be a very effective means of repair. After the hernia repair is completed, the overlying tissues and skin are surgically closed.

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