DEAR DOCTOR K: I have an inguinal hernia. Do I need to have it repaired? If so, what will the procedure involve?
DEAR READER: An inguinal hernia occurs when part of the intestine bulges through a weak spot in the abdominal wall, near the groin. The bulge can be small or large. There is a wall of tissue between our intestines and other abdominal organs and the skin of our belly. That wall is composed of muscles and a tough layer called fascia.
That wall of tissue is supposed to keep the intestines and other abdominal organs inside the abdomen. But holes can develop in that wall. When a part of the intestines pushes out through the hole, it’s called a hernia. When the hernia occurs in a particular area in the groin, it’s called an inguinal hernia. Men are more likely than women to develop this kind of hernia.
At first, an inguinal hernia may not cause symptoms, or it may cause only heaviness or pressure in the groin. As the hernia grows, it produces an abnormal bulge under the skin near the groin. It is likely to become larger and more uncomfortable until it is repaired.
As the hernia enlarges, there’s a small chance that a portion of herniated intestine may become trapped and unable to slide back into the abdomen. If this happens, the trapped intestine can twist and die because its blood supply is cut off.
An inguinal hernia will not heal on its own. If your hernia is causing any symptoms or has become even a little larger, you should talk to your doctor about having it surgically repaired.
Hernia repair may be done through open or laparoscopic surgery. Both usually are done on an outpatient basis.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of surgery. Talk to your surgeon about which option is best for you.