What is an inguinal hernia?
An inguinal hernia is a protrusion of a loop of intestine into the groin or scrotum through a ‘hole’ in the lower abdominal wall. It is common in baby boys and older men. Only 10 per cent of inguinal hernia patients are female.
What causes an inguinal hernia and who is at risk?
There are different types of inguinal hernia:
Men may have an indirect inguinal hernia – a channel in the “inguinal” canal (which links the testes in the scrotum to the rest of the male reproductive organs in the lower abdomen).
In either sex, a gap in the lower abdominal wall may result from weakening of the abdominal wall muscles and tissues.
The indirect inguinal hernia is typically seen in babies, and also occurs in men of all ages. The channel in the inguinal canal is present from birth.
What are the common symptoms and complications of an inguinal hernia?
An inguinal hernia produces a soft lump in the groin or scrotum, which can usually be pushed back into the abdomen. The lump can vary in size from a tiny grape- sized lump to a huge lump as big as a grapefruit or even bigger.
Sometimes the lump will stay in the abdomen if supported by a hand or a special type of corset called a ‘truss’. All inguinal hernias that can be pushed back into the abdomen are referred to as ‘reducible’.
Some inguinal hernias are effectively stuck in the ‘hole’. These are referred to as ‘irreducible’ hernias. This is a potentially dangerous condition as the blood supply to the hernia can become blocked and the hernia loses its source of oxygen and nutrients and starts to die.
What happens before surgery for inguinal repair?
You may be asked to visit the hospital one to two weeks before the date of your surgery, to have a preoperative interview with a nurse and/ or the anaesthetist.
If you are taking aspirin- containing medicines or anticoagulants, they may need to be temporarily withdrawn or reduced in dose for two weeks before the procedure. Try to stop smoking at least six to eight weeks prior to surgery.
What is the treatment for an inguinal hernia?
Self-care action plan
maintaining muscle strength by taking regular daily exercise
avoiding constipation by eating a healthy high-fibre diet that contains plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholemeal bread and drinking plenty of water
not smoking to avoid a smoker’s cough
losing weight if overweight
using mechanical means for lifting or carrying heavy loads or making sure that only safe lifting and carrying techniques are used
Once a hernia has formed it is important to seek a doctor’s advice. Ultimately, all inguinal hernias need to be treated by surgery because they can become strangulated.
Keyhole surgery can lead to a more rapid recovery and return to everyday activity and work than conventional surgery because there is less damage to the abdominal wall. But keyhole surgery must not be taken lightly because, despite the small wounds on the surface of the body, surgery is performed internally with the tissues inside the body being cut and sewn together. Although recovery time after keyhole surgery is shorter than after conventional surgery, the tissues still need time to heal.
When patients are discharged home, they are usually given written instructions about the care they need, how they should look after themselves, And when to see a doctor.