Hernia Repair & Treatment – Management of Hernia Condition By Singapore Specialist Surgeon
A hernia is protrusion of an organ or the muscular wall of an organ through the cavity that normally contains it. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach protrudes upwards into the mediastinum through the esophageal opening in the diaphragm.
By far the most common herniae develop in the abdomen, when a weakness in the abdominal wall evolves into a localized hole, or “defect”, through which adipose tissue, or abdominal organs covered with peritoneum, may protrude. Another common hernia involves the spinal discs and causes sciatica.
Herniae may or may not present either with pain at the site, a visible or palpable lump, or in some cases by more vague symptoms resulting from pressure on an organ which has become “stuck” in the hernia, sometimes leading to organ dysfunction. Fatty tissue usually enters a hernia first, but it may be followed by or accompanied by an organ.
Most of the time, herniae develop when pressure in the compartment of the residing organ is increased, and the boundary is weak or weakened.
Hernias can be classified according to their anatomical location:
Each of the above hernias may be characterized by several aspects:
If irreducible, hernias can develop several complications (hence, they can be complicated or uncomplicated):
It is generally advisable to repair hernias quickly in order to prevent complications such as organ dysfunction, gangrene, multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, and death. Most abdominal hernias can be surgically repaired, and recovery rarely requires long-term changes in lifestyle. Uncomplicated hernias are principally repaired by pushing back, or “reducing”, the herniated tissue, and then mending the weakness in muscle tissue (an operation called herniorrhaphy). If complications have occurred, the surgeon will check the viability of the herniated organ, and resect it if necessary.
Modern muscle reinforcement techniques involve synthetic materials (a mesh prosthesis) that avoid over-stretching of already weakened tissue (as in older, but still useful methods). The mesh is either placed over the defect (anterior repair) or more preferably under the defect (posterior repair). At times staples are used to keep the mesh in place. These mesh repair methods are often called “Tension Free” repairs because, unlike older traditional methods, muscle is not pulled together under tension.
Evidence based testing initially suggested that these Tension Free methods have the lowest percentage of recurrences and the fastest recovery period compared to older suture repair methods. However, prosthetic mesh usage seems to have a high incidence of infection with mesh usage becoming a study topic for the National Institutes of Health.
One study attempted to identify the factors related to mesh infections and found that compromised immune systems (such as diabetes) was a factor. Mesh has also become the subject of recalls and class action lawsuits.
Increasingly, some repairs are performed through laparoscopes.
Laparoscopic surgery is also referred to as “minimally invasive” surgery, which requires one or more small incisions for the camera and instruments to be inserted, as opposed to traditional “open” or “microscopic” surgery, which requires an incision large enough for the surgeon’s hands to be inserted into the patient. The defensive and misleading term microscopic surgery refers to the magnifying devices used during open surgery.
Many patients are managed through day surgery centers, and are able to return to work within a week or two, while intensive activities are prohibited for a longer period. Patients who have their hernias repaired with mesh often recover in a number of days. Surgical complications have been estimated to be up to 10%, but most of them can be easily addressed. They include surgical site infections, nerve and blood vessel injuries, injury to nearby organs, and hernia recurrence.
Generally, the use of external devices to maintain reduction of the hernia without repairing the underlying defect (such as hernia ], trunks, belts, etc.), is not advised. Exceptions are uncomplicated incisional hernias that arise shortly after the operation (should only be operated after a few months), or inoperable patients.
It is essential that the hernia not be further irritated by carrying out strenuous labour.
A sportman’s hernia is a syndrome characterized by chronic groin pain in athletes and a dilated superficial ring of the inguinal canal, although a true hernia is not present.
By far the most common hernias (up to 75% of all abdominal hernias) are the so-called inguinal hernias. Much insight is needed in the anatomy of the inguinal canal. Inguinal hernias are further divided into the more common indirect inguinal hernia (2/3, depicted here), in which the inguinal canal is entered via a congenital weakness at its entrance (the internal inguinal ring), and the direct inguinal hernia type (1/3), where the hernia contents push through a weak spot in the back wall of the inguinal canal. Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernia in both men and women. Femoral hernias occur more often in women than men, but women still get more inguinal hernias than femoral hernias.
Femoral hernias occur just below the inguinal ligament, when abdominal contents pass into the weak area at the posterior wall of the femoral canal. They can be hard to distinguish from the inguinal type (especially when ascending cephalad): however, they generally appear more rounded, and, in contrast to inguinal hernias, there is a strong female preponderance in femoral hernias. The incidence of strangulation in femoral hernias is high. Repair techniques are similar for femoral and inguinal hernia.
Umbilical hernias are especially common in infants of African descent, and occur more in boys. They involve protrusion of intraabdominal contents through a weakness at the site of passage of the umbilical cord through the abdominal wall. These hernias often resolve spontaneously. Umbilical hernias in adults are largely acquired, and are more frequent in obese or pregnant women. Abnormal decussation of fibers at the linea alba may contribute.
An incisional hernia occurs when the defect is the result of an incompletely healed surgical wound. When these occur in median laparotomy incisions in the linea alba, they are termed ventral hernias. These can be the most frustrating and difficult to treat, as the repair utilizes already attenuated tissue.
Higher in the abdomen, an (internal) “diaphragmatic hernia” results when part of the stomach or intestine protrudes into the chest cavity through a defect in the diaphragm.
A hiatus hernia is a particular variant of this type, in which the normal passageway through which the esophagus meets the stomach (esophageal hiatus) serves as a functional “defect”, allowing part of the stomach to (periodically) “herniate” into the chest. Hiatus hernias may be either “sliding,” in which the gastroesophageal junction itself slides through the defect into the chest, or non-sliding (also known as para-esophageal), in which case the junction remains fixed while another portion of the stomach moves up through the defect. Non-sliding or para-esophageal hernias can be dangerous as they may allow the stomach to rotate and obstruct. Repair is usually advised.
A congenital diaphragmatic hernia is a distinct problem, occurring in up to 1 in 2000 births, and requiring pediatric surgery. Intestinal organs may herniate through several parts of the diaphragm, posterolateral (in Bochdalek’s triangle, resulting in Bochdalek’s hernia), or anteromedial-retrosternal (in the cleft of Larrey/Morgagni’s foramen, resulting in Morgagni-Larrey hernia, or Morgagni’s hernia).
Since many organs or parts of organs can herniate through many orifices, it is very difficult to give an exhaustive list of hernias, with all synonyms and eponyms. The above article deals mostly with “visceral hernias”, where the herniating tissue arises within the abdominal cavity. Other hernia types and unusual types of visceral hernias are listed below, in alphabetical order:
Complications may arise post-operation, including rejection of the mesh that is used to repair the hernia. In the event of a mesh rejection, the mesh will very likely need to be removed. Mesh rejection can be detected by obvious, sometimes localised swelling and pain around the mesh area. Continuous discharge from the scar is likely for a while after the mesh has been removed.
An untreated hernia may complicate by:
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