Accounting for about 15 to 20 percent of all abdominal hernias, incisional hernias are usually noticeable when standing up or performing some type of physical activity involving abdominal stress or exertion.
Because hernias of this nature are usually small, there are both conservative and surgical treatment options that may benefit patients.
Incisional hernias are caused by weakened abdominal tissues that have been cut and repaired for surgical purposes. The risk of developing this type of hernia increases for individuals who have multiple abdominal procedures in the same general area. Gaining extra weight after surgery can also increase your odds of having issues with an abdominal wall protrusion.
Incisional hernias are more likely to develop within the first 3 to 6 months after abdominal surgery. If the protrusion affects certain tissues, a bowel obstruction may develop. This is a serious problem that’s often characterized by intensive pain, fever, and an inability to have regular bowel movements. Other symptoms that may be related to an incisional hernia include:
Since an incisional hernia bulge isn’t always noticeable at all times, a patient may be asked to cough or purposely make an effort to exert abdominal pressure to see if a bulge can be felt around the area where surgery was performed. Image tests aren’t always necessary, but they may be done if there’s a need to determine the extent of tissue damage.
A compression garment such as a hernia truss may be recommended if an incisional hernia is minor and not producing any serious or disruptive symptoms. However, the only permanent way to treat an incisional hernia is with surgery.
It’s important to seek immediate medical assistance if there are signs suggesting that a hernia has become incarcerated or strangulated, which means it’s cutting off the supply of blood to protruding tissues. Signs that this may be the case include severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
The most common way to surgically repair a hernia is with laparoscopic surgery. It’s a minimally invasive procedure that involves making smaller incisions to reposition protruding tissues and repair the weak spot in the abdominal wall. If the muscle defect is large, mesh material may be placed over it to cover the hole.
Anybody who has abdominal surgery is at risk for developing an incisional hernia. One possible way to reduce this risk is to make an effort to strengthen your abdominal muscles after you recover from surgery. Even gentler form of exercise like walking while swinging your arms and certain yoga poses can target your abdominal area. During your recovery period, avoiding excessive abdominal stress is usually recommended anyway, but doing so could also further reduce your risk of developing an abdominal muscle weak spot around your surgical site.