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Frequently Asked Questions About Hernia Repair

Not all hernias need to be repaired. Some need repaired more urgently than others and some can wait a long time. Some never need repaired. Overall, this question should be directed to your hernia surgeon and each patient is different.

Although this is rare, it is not impossible. This should be part of the discussion had with your hernia surgeon at the time of your office visit. Hernias that are repaired when there is not an emergency have a much lower risk of recurrence and complications. Again, though, this should be individualized for each patient.

Although each hernia is different, most should have mesh as part of the repair. Mesh has significantly reduced the odds of a recurrence (hernia coming back) for all hernias of the abdominal wall and groin (except for the small hernias). Although there will be a few scenarios when mesh will not be necessary, it very frequently is.

As for problems with mesh, the mesh on most of the television commercials is different from the mesh that will be used in your surgery. This would be a great question to ask the surgeon that will be doing your surgery. With that said, it is rare to have any issues with the mesh, although all material that is put in the body can have issues with infection, fluid collections around the mesh (seroma), and the sensation of the mesh (extremely rare).

This is a very complex question. There are a very large number of "types" of mesh on the market.

Typically the meshes that are used are either SYNTHETIC. These meshes are made of inert materials that are produced by companies. They are very strong (stronger than even your normal tissues) and now are so lightweight they are infrequently noticed by patients.

Some meshes are BIOLOGIC. These meshes are infrequently used and created from human or animal tissue. They can be used in certain situations where synthetic meshes are not thought to be best suited. They dissolve over time so are not permanent.

More recently developed meshes are known as SYNTHETIC ABSORBABLE. These meshes are produced in a lab and will go away over time (much longer time period than the BIOLOGIC meshes).

All of these mesh products have specific uses. It is rare, except in very small hernias, that one will not be used to repair your hernia. These options should be discussed prior to surgery with your surgeon.

Most hernias are not "preventable" as we would like to think. The things that we do that can make us more likely to get a hernia are to be overweight, smoking, chronic coughing, excessive repetitive heavy lifting, poor nutrition, and previous surgery. A large number of hernias are present at birth and those things mentioned above make them worse. Other hernias are the result of previous surgery, a bad trauma or accident, or due to medical conditions that are unable to be prevented (immune and connective tissue disorders).

After surgeries, a period (depending on what type of surgery) of time is often necessary to minimize heavy lifting to allow your incision to heal. Proceeding with activity too soon after surgery can also create hernias.

Patients with a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 40 have significant issues with hernia recurrence, wound infections, mesh infections, and other problems with surgery for hernia repairs. If this is the first hernia that you have had or if the hernia requires emergency surgery then weight loss might not be necessary.

However, if you have had previous attempts at hernia repair or have a more complicated hernia than weight loss (getting BMI less than 40) is mandatory prior to surgery. This is because the risk increases for bad complications and recurrence. This risk is so high that successful surgery (without weight loss) is quite rare and the potential health risks too great to proceed with surgery.

The hernia care team at Kettering Health Network works with each patient to minimize risk. Each patient care plan is treated individually to maximize success to obtain optimal outcomes.

Some surgeons do repair hernias in tobacco users. If this is your first hernia repair then stopping smoking is probably not absolutely necessary but we will help and encourage this for many reasons.

However, if you have had a repair before and require a second surgery, you must quit smoking prior to being eligible for repair. The risk of recurrence and infection and decreased wound healing climbs significantly in smokers. So much so that repairs are actually more dangerous than helpful. Therefore, unless an emergency, you should not have a hernia repair if you are currently using tobacco products.

The hernia care team at Kettering Health Network is dedicated to helping you achieve success. We have smoking cessation resources available. Although our long-term goal is to help you quit permanently, stopping for at least 4-6 weeks prior to surgery and then about a month after surgery has been shown to minimize the risks when undergoing a hernia repair.