If your physician has recommended surgery for the repair of your hernia, you should consider an innovative procedure called laparoscopic hernioplasty ("lap-hernia" for short). Lap-hernias are less-invasive procedures than traditional hernia surgeries: the incisions are smaller; there is less discomfort; and the recovery time is shortened.
A hernia is a protrusion of an internal organ or other tissue through a weakened muscle or supporting tissue which normally contains it. The term is usually used to describe a protrusion of the intestine through a weak area in the muscular abdominal wall. This kind of hernia can be seen or felt.
The most common type of hernia is the inguinal, or groin hernia. This type of hernia, occurring in the extreme lower part of the abdomen, can be found in males and females of any age. Because of anatomical differences, it is most commonly found in males.
Other abdominal hernias include femoral hernias (lower abdomen to thigh), epigastric hernias (between navel and breastbone), umbilical hernias (near the navel, usually in babies), Paraumbilical hernia (near the navel), and incisional hernias (occur around old surgical scars).
Hernias may cause no significant symptoms which allows may people to live with them for years. More commonly, hernias may produce a dull aching sensation or an occasional sharp pain. Other symptoms may include nausea, constipation, or a sense of fullness. Some hernias may heal themselves with physician prescribed supportive garments. Umbilical hernias in children often disappear by the age of 5.
Inguinal hernias cannot heal themselves and require surgery to repair. If left untreated, inguinal hernias can enlarge or cause serious complications including bowel obstructions.
To repair an inguinal hernia laparoscopically, the surgeon makes three small incisions in the patient's abdomen. Unlike the three-inch incision made in traditional open surgery, these incisions do not traumatize muscle tissue, so patients experience much less pain after surgery and return to normal activity within a week.
There are two techniques for Lap-Hernia repairs. The first one includes placing tubes, or trocars, inside the abdominal cavity and repairing the hernia internally. This is called an "intraperitoneal repair." The newer technique places the trocar and instruments behind the abdominal wall, but not inside the abdominal cavity. This is called a "pre-peritoneal repair." A unique feature of this approach allows repair of bilateral or "double" hernias simultaneously with faster recuperation. The surgeon then inserts a trocar into each of the abdominal incisions. A laparoscope, which consists of a small video camera and light source, is inserted near the navel. The camera sends actual images to a monitor, which allows the surgeon to "see" the hernia itself.
A variety of surgical instruments can now access the hernia site through the second and third tubes. Through one tube, the surgeon uses a grasper to gently manipulate the tissue surrounding the hernia and to position a mesh patch that covers the weakened area in the muscle wall. Through the other tube, the surgeon attaches the mesh patch to the abdominal wall with staples or sutures. The mesh becomes a strong and permanent part of the wall.
While each case is unique, a Lap-Hernia can take less than an hour and can be done as an outpatient procedure. It does however, require general anesthesia, which leaves patients sleepy for as much as a day after surgery. Patients need to make arrangements for safe transportation home. It is always recommended that patients also have someone to stay with them for the first 24 hours.
The pain from the small incisions is usually gone in a day or two, and at that point, it is possible to resume normal activities such as driving a car or returning to light work.
Full activity is frequently permitted within about two weeks, but a check-up in the surgeon's office is recommended before resuming strenuous activities such as heavy lifting or participation in sports.
Hernia repair is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States. Close to half a million are done annually - many using less invasive techniques. In fact, the number of lap hernias being performed is expected to double in the next year.
While the benefits of Lap-Hernia can be brought to many patients who suffer from painful hernias, a thorough evaluation by your physician is the best way to determine your eligibility.
DeKalb Clinic's surgeons are specifically trained in laparoscopy and offer Lap Hernia repair as a choice for eligible hernia patients.
For more information or an appointment, call the DeKalb Clinic at (815) 758-8671. Some patient insurance may require referrals from primary care physicians. To make an appointment with a primary care physician, call DeKalb Clinic's Internal Medicine Department at (815) 758-8671.