Hi, this is Dr. Parker, General Surgeon, and in this post I want to talk about hernias. Often I have patients come to my office with a diagnosis of a hernia from their primary care physician, but are not exactly clear on what a hernia is, or why it is significant. These are a couple of the questions I hope to clear up in this post.
A hernia is an abnormal hole, most commonly in the abdominal wall, that’s it. Think of the belly as having many “layers”, and generally there are one or two “strong” layers. When these strong layers of tissue become weak, and develop a hole, then this is termed a “hernia”. Typically patients experience a hernia when they have a “bulge” in the groin or navel area. This is actually contents from inside your abdomen (commonly small bowels), sneaking through that hole, and now protruding only under the layers of skin and fat. The strong layer is interrupted, and the small bowel now can get outside of that strong layer, but of course it’s stopped by the skin and fat layers.
If you can “push it back in”, then we call this a “reducible” hernia. That means you can push the contents of the hernia back into the abdomen where the belong, fairly easily. If you cannot push the contents back in, we call this an “incarcerated” hernia (the contents are stuck in hernia jail). When that incarcerated hernia gets the blood supply cut off to those organs (mostly small bowel) we call this a “strangulated” hernia. It is important to differentiate the three because each one has a different time frame in which it should be treated.
I hope this helped you to understand the definition of a hernia. Please see my other posts for specifics on each different location of hernia and how they are best treated.
P.S. Please leave comments or questions below for me. Thanks!