Surgical management of abdominal wall hernias

Surgical management of abdominal wall hernias

Abdominal wall hernias are a common medical condition that affects millions of people worldwide. "Hernias might not seem like a big deal at first glance, but they definitely have the potential to become serious," says Christopher W. Bailey, MD, FACS, General Surgery at ARC Medical Plaza Specialty in Cedar Park. "They often begin as minor inconveniences, sometimes even without symptoms. However, they tend to progress over time and can lead to complications. This can result in intense pain and interfere with blood flow to the affected area, necessitating immediate medical intervention."

What is an abdominal wall hernia?

An abdominal wall hernia is a condition where organs or tissues bulge through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles. This can happen for various reasons, including injury, surgery, or strain on the abdominal muscles. The protrusion creates a noticeable lump or bulge under the skin, which may be painful or tender to the touch.

Types of abdominal wall hernias

  1. Epigastric hernia: This type of hernia occurs in the upper part of the abdomen, between the breastbone and the navel.
  2. Incisional hernia: Developing at the site of a previous abdominal surgery, incisional hernias can occur weeks, months, or even years after the initial procedure.
  3. Spigelian hernia: Spigelian hernias appear along the edge of the rectus abdominis muscle, typically below the navel.
  4. Umbilical hernia: Common in infants but can also affect adults, umbilical hernias emerge near the belly button, causing a noticeable bulge.
  5. Inguinal hernia: Similar to other types of hernias, these develop in the groin. They can form in both women and men.


The symptoms of an abdominal wall hernia can vary depending on the type and severity of the hernia. Common signs include:

  • A visible bulge or lump in the abdomen.
  • Pain or discomfort, especially when lifting heavy objects or straining during bowel movements.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in the abdomen.

How are abdominal wall hernias treated?

Surgical intervention is often required to repair abdominal wall hernias, especially if they cause discomfort or complications. The procedure typically involves minimally invasive surgery to push the protruding organ or tissue back into place and strengthen the weakened abdominal wall with stitches or a surgical mesh.

What to expect after surgery

After undergoing surgery for an abdominal wall hernia, patients can expect a period of recovery. This may include:

  • Pain management with medication prescribed by the surgeon.
  • Restricted activity and lifting for a certain period to allow the abdominal muscles to heal.
  • Gradual return to normal activities under the guidance of medical professionals.
  • Follow-up appointments to monitor healing and address any concerns or complications.

Risks of untreated abdominal wall hernias

Ignoring an abdominal wall hernia can lead to several serious complications, including:

  • Incarceration: When the protruding organ becomes trapped and unable to return to its normal position, potentially leading to strangulation.
  • Strangulation: A severe complication where the blood supply to the trapped organ is cut off, resulting in tissue death and infection.
  • Intestinal obstruction: The herniated organ can obstruct the normal flow of food and waste through the digestive system, causing severe pain and potentially requiring emergency surgery.

"The only way to repair a hernia is with surgery. But that doesn't mean you necessarily need surgical intervention right away. Sometimes your surgeon may just want to monitor small or mild hernias," says Dr. Bailey. "That being said, you should have any suspected hernias evaluated by a surgeon to determine which hernias can successfully be watched and which require more timely intervention."

Make an appointment today

ARC General Surgeons have specialized knowledge and experience related to diagnosis and pre-operative, operative, and post-operative management, combined with a patient-centered philosophy of coordinated care. At ARC, we provide the most up-to-date surgical and treatment options available.

Take the first step towards a healthier you and schedule an appointment today. Dr. Bailey is accepting new patients, ages 14 and older, at ARC Medical Plaza Specialty in Cedar Park. Call 512-260-1581 or make an appointment through ARC MyChart or ARC Help Me Book.

Tags: abdominal wall hernias, General Surgery