hernia surgery

Hernias can happen to anyone. Some types are more common in men, while others are more common in women. You can even be born with a hernia.

Some hernias don’t have symptoms, but most cause some degree of pain or discomfort, and can pose a risk for needing emergency surgery. A hernia is a disruption or tear in the muscle wall leading to a bulge caused by an organ or tissue pushing through.

The good news is that hernia surgery has come a long way. With today’s minimally invasive techniques, you can often go home the same day you have surgery. If you follow all of your doctor’s instructions, you may recover from your hernia surgery more quickly than you expect.

Why Does a Hernia Usually Need Surgery?

There are always exceptions, but most hernias eventually need surgery. This is because hernias don’t repair themselves. After the tissue has pushed through, you almost always need a surgeon to correct it. Sometimes “watchful waiting” is best for patients but should be determined by a surgeon.

There are three types of hernia surgery. Your surgeon will determine the best approach for your circumstance.

  1. Open. The surgeon makes one long incision. Then, they put the tissue or organ back where in its appropriate place and stitch the tissue together again.
  2. Laparoscopic. The surgeon makes tiny incisions and uses small instruments to push the tissue back into place. This type is less invasive than open surgery but requires entry into the abdomen.
  3. Robotic. Robotic surgery also uses a laparoscopic approach, but it’s more precise. The surgeon uses special tools to perform the hernia repair.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Preparing for Hernia Surgery

Your doctor will examine you to ensure that you’re healthy for surgery. You’ll also know what type of hernia repair surgery you’re having. Even if you’re having outpatient surgery, you should make sure someone drives you home.

Your doctor will give you a full list of pre-surgery instructions. Following these is important. They’ll tell you things like:

  • When to stop eating and drinking before surgery.
  • Whether you should take your medications the morning of surgery.
  • What else you need to do to prepare (like using antibiotic soap).
  • You’ll also meet with the anesthesiologist, who will explain the type of anesthesia they’ll give you.

You want to make sure you’re as healthy as possible for surgery.

Some habits, like smoking cigarettes, increase the risk of the surgery not going as well. Your surgeon may require you to quit smoking in the weeks before surgery. They may also talk to you about other habits, like drinking alcohol or using marijuana, as well as exercise, as obesity can also be a risk factor.

How Long Is Recovery from Hernia Surgery?

After surgery, every person’s hernia surgery recovery time is slightly different. Here are some basics to know.

In the hospital

If you’re having open surgery because your hernia is large, there is a possibility you could stay in the hospital for a few days. Otherwise, you’ll have outpatient surgery.

After your surgery, your care team will take you to the post-surgery recovery area. They’ll bring you out of anesthesia and monitor your vitals. You’ll likely get a checklist of things you need to do (in terms of eating, drinking, urinating, and so on) before you can leave.

Your care team will ensure you know how to take care of your incision at home. If your hernia was large, you might get a small drainage tube after surgery.

The first few days at home

Feeling sore and slightly uncomfortable the first two to three days after surgery is normal. You should avoid heavy lifting and driving, as well as some other activities. These should not be resumed until discussed with your surgeon. Here are some things you can do:

  • Get lots of rest. You’ll probably feel extra tired after surgery, especially under general anesthesia.
  • Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing keeps oxygen circulating, which can promote faster healing. Breathe in deeply, hold it for a few seconds, and then blow out. Hold a pillow to your incision if it hurts.
  • Take pain relievers as directed. Your doctor will tell you what you can take. For smaller incisions, you may manage the pain with over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe stronger pain relievers; only take them as directed.
  • Try some gentle movement. Your doctor will give you specific guidelines, but walking around at least once an hour is good. This keeps blood moving and prevents soreness.

Getting Back to Your Normal Routine

When you can get back to your routine depends on the type of surgery you had.

If you had open surgery, your hernia surgery recovery time will depend on the type of surgical procedure you had, and will be explained by your surgeon. You may need more time to heal if you had an extensive repair. If you had laparoscopic surgery, you’ll likely have a quicker recovery.

Within the first week, you can usually do some light activity. If your job isn’t strenuous, you can likely return to work. (You may need more time off if you had open surgery and a large hernia.)

You probably won’t be able to lift anything heavy (more than 15 pounds) for a few weeks. You don’t want to do anything to strain the area where the hernia was. You may even need to avoid tasks that require bending or reaching, like making your bed.

Your doctor will give you clearance for exercise, but this takes about six weeks for most people who’ve had laparoscopic surgery, but could take a few months. If you had open surgery, it may take a few months.

Are There Ever Serious Complications After Hernia Surgery?

You may have heard about complications with hernia mesh, or adhesions to the mesh, like bowel obstructions or mesh infections. These are not common complications and are usually associated with complex repairs.

UPMC stays current with the latest technology, and our surgeons continue to use surgical mesh with great success. The benefits of preventing hernias with mesh, outweigh the risk of potential complications.

Your doctor will help you manage other complications. You can reduce your risk by:

  • Following your doctor’s post-surgery instructions.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Working to stay as healthy as possible before and after surgery.

To learn more about hernia surgery at UPMC, visit the General Surgery at UPMC website.

MedlinePlus. Deep breathing after surgery. Link.

MedlinePlus. Inguinal hernia repair – discharge. Link.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.