An inguinal hernia is characterized by fat or intestines that protrude through the inferior abdominal wall into the groin or the inguinal region. There are two primary types on inguinal hernias. A direct inguinal hernia is one that typically occurs in males over the age of eighteen and happens due to a weakness in the abdominal wall muscles that forms over time.
An indirect inguinal hernia is the result of an abdominal wall birth defect that is present at birth or congenital. Hernias may occur on one side or both sides of the abdomen and usually do not occur in females.
When inguinal hernias first appear they may not be painful and they may be asymptomatic. When symptoms do manifest they most commonly include a protrusion on both or one side of the groin region that regresses when in a horizontal lying down position and groin pain during coughing, exercising, or lifting. In addition, an inguinal hernia can cause a feeling of burning, heaviness, or weakness in the groin area. A swollen scrotum may also be indicative of an inguinal hernia presence. An inguinal hernia is usually diagnosed with a medical history, physical examination, and ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI imaging tests.
In some uncommon cases, an inguinal hernia can develop into a serious complication that is called a strangulated hernia. Strangulation occurs when the small intestine gets lodged in the inguinal canal and is not able to be massaged or moved back into the abdomen. This may result in the intestines losing their adequate supply of blood which can cause those tissues of the intestines to die. Symptoms of this serious complication include severe abdominal pain, constipation, nausea, and persistent vomiting.
For small and minor inguinal hernias, a physician can reduce or push the hernia back into the abdominal cavity with a massage technique. If this is not effective or if the minor hernia occurs again, surgical intervention may be required. No inguinal hernias can resolve on their own, and most cases are referred for surgery to repair them. Herniorrhaphy or hernioplasty are terms that are used to describe an inguinal hernia repair surgery. This type of surgical procedure is fairly common and can be done through any one of three primary methods. An open hernia repair involves an incision that is made in the groin where the surgeon repositions the hernia back into its respective place in the abdomen. When that is done, the hole or area of where the protrusion occurred will be strengthened with a combination of stitches and specialized medical mesh.
A laparoscopic hernia repair or a minimally invasive hernia repair is a surgical procedure that involves inserting a laparoscope or a small tube with a video camera attached into small half inch cuts in the lower abdomen. The surgeon uses a digital display of the video camera as a guide and repairs the hernia using the series of small incisions. A robotic hernia repair also involves the use of a laparoscope and is done using the same small incision technique. Robotic surgery is different from a laparoscopic hernia repair because the surgeon is using a console to handle the surgical instruments instead of their actual hands to repair the hernia. The majority of hernia repair surgical procedures are successful with no complications. In very rare cases an inguinal hernia may return after having a hernia repair surgical procedure.