Health A-Z

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Not all hernias need to be treated. However, most hernias that cause symptoms or that become even a little larger should be repaired by a surgeon. While awaiting surgery, some people wear a device called a truss, which puts pressure on the hernia and may help relieve discomfort temporarily. Except in very rare cases, the truss should not be considered a long term solution.

There are two basic types of hernia repair: open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Both usually are done on an outpatient basis and take about one hour to complete.

  • Open surgery Most inguinal hernias are repaired by open surgery with the patient under general or local anesthesia. After the surgeon makes an incision in the groin, he or she pushes the herniated tissue back into place and repairs the hernia opening with stitches. In many cases, a small piece of synthetic mesh material is used to reinforce the area to prevent another hernia.

  • Laparoscopic surgery In laparoscopic hernia repair, a surgeon makes three small incisions in the abdominal wall and then inflates the abdomen with a harmless gas. The surgeon then inserts a laparoscope through the incisions. A laparoscope is a tube-like instrument with a small video camera and surgical instruments. While viewing the internal scene on a monitor, the surgeon pushes the herniated intestine back into place and repairs the hernia opening with surgical staples. Although this surgery seems attractive to many people, the long-term success rate is lower compared to open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery often causes less discomfort, and lets the person return to activities more quickly. If you are interested in laparoscopic surgery, discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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