A hernia is an abnormal protrusion, or bulging out, of part of an organ through the tissues that normally contain it. A hernia may develop in almost any part of the body; however, the muscles of the abdominal wall are most commonly affected. In this condition, a weak spot or opening in a body wall, often due to laxity of the muscles, allows part of the organ to protrude. Hernias by themselves usually are harmless, but nearly all have a potential risk of having their blood supply cut off (becoming strangulated).
If the hernia sac contents have their blood supply cut off at the hernia opening in the abdominal wall, it becomes a medical and surgical emergency. There are many different types of abdominal wall hernias.
Although one type of abdominal hernia can be present at birth (umbilical hernia), the others happen later in life. Some involve pathways formed during foetal development, existing openings in the abdominal cavity, or areas of abdominal wall weakness. The protrusion can be either reducible, which means it can be pushed back into the abdominal cavity and seem to disappear, or non-reducible, which means it cannot be pushed back into the abdominal cavity. A non reducible hernia is also called an incarcerated hernia. The American Medical Association says that when a non-reducible protrusion involves a portion of the intestine, it can become tightly trapped, lose its blood supply and die. This dangerous condition is called strangulation and often necessitates immediate surgical repair. Research concludes that any condition that increases the pressure of the abdominal cavity may contribute to the formation or worsening of a hernia. e.g : * Persistent coughing * straining/constipation * sudden physical exertion * obesity * pregnancy
What are the symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of a hernia can range from noticing a painless lump to the painful, tender, swollen protrusion of tissue that one is unable to push back into the abdomen-possibly a strangulated hernia. A gap in the abdominal wall is not normally a problem in itself; it is the bulge of intestine that fills the gap that can potentially cause complications. Whether you feel severe pain or none whatsoever, it is important to have a hernia treated as quickly as possible. Every move you make puts more pressure on the internal tissues, forcing them further out of the gap. This enlarges both the gap and the bulge. If left untreated, a large part of the intestine can move inside the hernia.
In the case of an incarcerated hernia, the intestine gets trapped inside the hernia and is not able to come out. This causes a bowel obstruction, which results in severe groin pain, abdominal distension and vomiting. If it remains in the hernia too long, the blood supply can be cut off and the intestine can die, leading to a dangerous, sometimes fatal, strangulated hernia. Sometimes symptoms like nausea and vomiting may accompany pain. These are actually signs of bowel obstruction. Fortunately, with early treatment, the development of incarcerated and strangulated hernias is now quite rare.
How is it diagnosed?
All newly discovered hernias or symptoms that suggest that one might have a hernia, should prompt a visit to the doctor. Hernias, even those that ache, if they are not tender and easy to reduce (push back into the abdomen), are not surgical emergencies, but all have the potential to become serious. If one has an obvious hernia, the doctor will not require any other tests (if the person is healthy otherwise) but may diagnose by just examining the patient. This means that the doctor will ask the patient to cough or stand. This increases the intra-abdominal pressure and forces the hernia to bulge out.
What are the Treatment options?
Although non-operative treatments existed in the past, they proved to be ineffective, so surgery is currently the primary treatment for all hernias. The treatment of every hernia is individualized, and a discussion of the risks and benefits of surgical versus non-surgical management needs to take place. One will be surprised to know that herniography is one of the Top 10 surgeries performed in the United States alone.
For most people who develop a hernia, it is always advisable to see a doctor, even if there are no symptoms other than the protrusion. In order to reduce the risk of future strangulation, the doctor may recommend surgery which is called herniography. There are two basic methods which are followed. They are:
The more traditional method is an open hernia surgery. In this technique, surgery is done from the outside of the body. A cut is made through the skin over the hernia. This involves making a four- to six-inch incision and identifying the gap by looking through the layers of tissue. After this the protruding tissue is either removed or pushed back into the abdomen and the abdominal wall is repaired and strengthened. The abdominal wall can be strengthened by sewing surrounding muscle over it, or it can be strengthened with a special type of mesh.
Repair of simple and complex abdominal hernias by the laparoscopic technique is now the method of choice in many centres. Laparoscopic repair offers equivalent outcomes to open repair, with the additional benefits of greater patient satisfaction and reduced hospitalization. For some hernias, like incisional, the outcome appears to be superior using the minimally invasive technique. Laparoscopic hernia repair is similar to other laparoscopic procedures. This type of operation is done using a tiny telescope called a laparoscope. It is linked to a special camera. The device allows the doctor to see the hernia on a video screen. It requires smaller incisions (usually 1/5 to 1/2 of an inch). The laparoscopic approach to both inguinal and ventral hernias has resulted in a reduced hospital stay and faster recovery time.
A. Laparoscopic Inguinal Hernia Repair
Inguinal hernias are repaired with a 1cm incision for the camera and two 5mm ports. The preperitoneal repair, developed 40 years ago by Dr. Stoppa as an open operation and recently translated into a laparoscopic approach, is used to recreate the pelvic floor. The peritoneum is mobilized to the level of the umbilicus to create a large space behind the rectus abdominus muscle. A 6-by-6-inch piece of mesh is introduced into the concavity of the pelvis, which covers the origin of the defect from the inside, rather than the more traditional one that lay on top of the hernia. Currently, the two most popular laparoscopic techniques are:
* TAPP (Trans abdominal preperitoneal)
* TEP (total extra peritoneal)
The most ardent critique of the TAPP procedure is that it is an intra-abdominal procedure with significant potential morbidity. On the other hand, the TEP procedure avoids intra-abdominal access. A major advantage of laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair is that bilateral hernias, which are not uncommon, can be repaired during the same operation. The laparoscopic procedure also allows the physician to see and repair small hernias not detected by a physical examination. Patients who cannot have laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair are those who have had bladder surgery, open prostate surgery, radiation for prostate cancer, or other prior invasion of the preperitoneal space.
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