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Alternative namesHernia - inguinal; Inguinal hernia
A hernia occurs when part of an organ (usually the intestines) protrudes through a weak point or tear in the thin muscular wall that holds the abdominal organs in place.
There are several types of hernias, based on where it occurs:
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Usually, there is no obvious cause of a hernia, although they are sometimes associated with heavy lifting.
Hernias can be seen in infants and children. This can happen when the lining around the abdominal organs does not close properly before birth. About 5 out of 100 children have inguinal hernias (more boys than girls). Some may not have symptoms until adulthood.
If you have any of the following, you are more likely to develop a hernia:
Signs and testsA doctor can confirm the presence of a hernia during a physical exam. The mass may increase in size when coughing, bending, lifting, or straining. The hernia (bulge) may not be obvious in infants and children, except when the child is crying or coughing.
Most hernias can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity. However, if it cannot be pushed back through the abdominal wall, this can lead to a strangulated loop of intestine. If left untreated, this dies because of loss of blood supply.
Almost all hernias require surgery, preferably before complications occur, to reposition the herniated loop of intestine and secure the weakened muscles in the abdomen.
Hernia repair is performed as an outpatient procedure using local or general anesthesia. First, through an incision, the segment of bowel is placed back into the abdominal cavity. Next, the muscle and fascia are stitched closed to repair the hernia. A piece of plastic mesh is often used to reinforce the defect in the abdominal wall. You will return from surgery with a large dressing over the surgical site. This dressing will remain in place for a day or two. Occasionally a corset or support may be used after surgery to support weak muscles during recovery.
Potential complications of this procedure include infection and abscess formation. Medications may be prescribed to manage the pain associated with surgical repair.
Expectations (prognosis)The outcome is usually good with treatment. Recurrence is rare (1-3%).
ComplicationsAn incarcerated hernia can lead to a strangulated intestine, which can result in gangrene, a life-threatening condition requiring emergency surgery.
Calling your health care provider
Call your doctor right away if:
Call your doctor if:
Update Date: 10/29/2003Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Boston, Ma., and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc. Previously reviewed by Robert W. O'Rourke, M.D., Department of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Legacy Health System, Portland, OR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. (8/10/2001).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT