Hi, this is Dr. Parker, General Surgeon, and in this article 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 patients are usually 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 article.
A hernia is an abnormal hole, most commonly in the abdominal wall…..and that’s it. Let me explain. 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.
The most common locations for hernias to appear are:
Epigastric Hernia (Above the belly button)
Umbilical Hernia (At the belly button
Inguinal Hernia (AKA Groin Hernia)
Incisional Hernia (At a previous surgical site)
Port Site Hernia (At a previous incision for laparoscopic surgery)
Stomal Hernia (Around a colostomy bag site)
I hope this helped you to understand the definition of a hernia. Please see my other articles 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!