What is a hernia?

A hernia is an area in the connective tissue layer that is weak or torn. When there is a hernia, other tissues that are normally held in by the damaged layer bulge or stick out through the weak or torn area.

Hernias can happen in different parts of the body. When they happen in the groin, they are called inguinal or femoral hernias. They are also the most common types of hernia. Groin hernias can form a sac that holds a loop of intestine or a piece of fat pad that normally sits inside the tummy.

What are the symptoms of a groin hernia?

Groin hernias do not always cause symptoms. But when symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Heavy or pulling feeling in the groin area.
  • Dull pain or ache that gets worse when straining, lifting, coughing, or otherwise using the muscles near the groin.
  • A bulge or lump at the groin.

Hernias can be very painful and seriously dangerous if the tissue in the hernia becomes stuck and unable to slide back into the tummy. When this happens, we called it a strangulated hernia; the tissue does not get enough blood, so that it can get damaged or die.

How are hernias diagnosed?

You should see your doctor if you feel or see a bulge in your groin or have a pulling sensation or ache in the groin even if you have no bulge. Most of the time, doctors can diagnose a hernia just by doing a physical examination. During the examination, the doctor will ask you to cough while pressing on the bulge. This can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary to find the cause of the problem.

How are hernias treated?

Hernias need to be repaired with surgery. Usually, the contents of the hernia can be gently pushed back into the tummy; you can take your time to plan your operation at a convenient date with your doctor. Sometimes, when the hernia gets trapped and cannot be pushed back in, the tissue inside can get damaged. If you developed pain around the bulge or feel sick, you need to call your surgeon right away for immediate treatment.

Surgeons can repair groin hernias in 2 ways. The best surgery for you will depend on the size of your hernia, whether this is the first time it is getting repaired, and what your general health is like. The 2 types of surgery are:

  • Open surgery –
    During an open surgery, the surgeon makes a cut near the hernia. He then gently pushes the bulging tissues back into place. Next, the surgeon repairs the weak layers together by sewing and patches the area with a piece of mesh. The mesh takes the strain off the tissue layers and strengthens the muscle layers. That way the hernia is less likely to happen again.
  • Laparoscopic (Keyhole) surgery –
    During laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes a few small keyhole cuts on the tummy. Then he inserts long thin instruments into the area near the hernia, as well as a long thin telescope camera. Together with the telescope camera, the weak tissue layers are repaired with stitches and mesh. Laparoscopic surgery repairs the hernia in a similar way to open surgery, but uses smaller cuts. The patient experiences less pain after laparoscopic surgery because the smaller cuts are placed away from the groin which is subjected to a lot movement with normal activities.