What Is a Hernia and How Is It Treated?

Hernias are a common problem for both women and men. To learn more about this condition and how it’s treated, Chrys Peterson sat down with a Q&A with Tahir Jamil, MD, a ProMedica Physicians general surgeon.

Chrys Peterson: What are hernias, exactly?
Dr. Jamil: A hernia is a defect, or a tear in the abdominal wall muscles. They can occur anywhere in the abdominal cavity themselves. Again, like you said, it’s very common among men and women. Some very common hernias are belly button hernias. And a lot of people experience groin hernias as well.

And what causes them?
It can be multi-factorial. There are a lot of different reasons why people have hernias. Sometimes it’s genetics; sometimes it’s lifting heavy objects; sometimes people have had previous operations on their belly, which is the reason they develop a hernia. So again, there are a lot of different reasons and most of the time it’s not the patient’s fault. It’s just something that naturally happens and luckily we have really good options to repair them.

How do I know if I have them? Am I going to see it? Am I going to feel it?
The most common complaint that people have, usually, is they see a bulge in their abdominal wall. So there’s some soft of asymmetry that they notice all of a sudden. In addition, a lot of people have discomfort or pain in their abdominal cavity, and a lot of times we can relate that to a small abdominal hernia.

My own dad actually did have a hernia and I could actually see it through a golf shirt. I know that they are prominent for some people too, but I kept asking him, why don’t you get that fixed? and he said it wasn’t hurting anything. but it actually can be dangerous if you don’t get them fixed, right?
Absolutely. People can develop more pain. In certain groups of patients they can get bowel obstructions. They can need emergency operations from hernias. It can be very serious if not taken care of or at least seek medical attention so we can at least take a look at it and see if it’s something that would require a fix.

What is the fix for a hernia?
We actually have a lot of different options. Sometimes we do have to do the traditional open surgery to repair some of these hernias, but again our focus and our specialty is really on minimally invasive robotic hernia repair. What we have found is that people have less pain, they have shorter length of stays in the hospital. On average, we’re running about less than a day in the hospital after a hernia repair, and again the cosmetic effect is definitely there. Instead of a long incision, you have three small incisions and our complication rate has become very, very low. Overall, our patients are very satisfied.

What about after the surgery when the patient goes home. What kind of restrictions do you place them on afterward?
Usually, they’re on pretty limited restrictions. We have about a 10-pound weight restriction for about two weeks, but after that they can slowly resume normal activity. What we found is that when we do these minimally invasive robotic repairs is that people return to work sooner, they have less incisional pain, and they’re able to resume normal activities much faster.

What would you say to encourage people out there to get them fixed and not just let them go, even if they’re not causing them pain?
I think people should definitely see us in the hernia program so they can get expert consultation on these hernias, because sometimes these hernias are much more complicated than it’s just a hernia. They need professional expertise on this medical problem and it shouldn’t be taken lightly because, again, we see people that take a lackadaisical approach to it or push it off to the side and then they get bigger, larger, more painful and more challenging to fix. What we want to do is be very proactive about people who have hernias and who needs to get them fixed and offer them a slew of different options for their repair.

Interested in learning more about hernia treatment?

Learn more from our Hernia Surgery Program