Common questions asked by patients and families about hernias and hernia surgery.
Must I have my hernia fixed?Not all hernias need to be fixed. This is a decision each patient should make with his/her surgeon by weighing the risks and benefits of surgery.
What are the typical lifting restrictions following surgery?Your specific restrictions will be discussed when you meet your surgeon. For large abdominal hernias, a typical restriction might be a 10 to 20 pound lifting restriction for six weeks after surgery.
Why is it so important to quit smoking before a hernia repair?Smoking decreases the chance that the hernia repair will be successful. The chemicals in cigarettes slow wound healing and increase the tendency to cough, which puts stress on the repair.
How long should I expect to be in the hospital?Some hernia repairs are done as an outpatient, meaning you will go home the same day you have surgery. For more extensive repairs, you may be in the hospital for a few days.
What are the requirements that must be met before discharge?You must be able to urinate on your own, drink liquids on your own without nausea and/or vomiting, and your pain must be controlled with oral medications.
Can the incisions be exposed to water?Depending on the kind of surgery you had, the type of dressings used on your wounds, the location of your incisions and a variety of other factors, you may be able to take a shower on the day after surgery. For more complicated abdominal wall reconstruction, instructions about exposing incisions to water will vary. Your surgical team will provide you with specific instructions at the time of your discharge from the hospital.
What are signs that my incisions may be infected?You should be alert for increased redness, tenderness, or warmth around your incisions, drainage, fever and chills. Wound infections are most common within about two weeks after surgery. If you notice any of these things, you should call the clinic immediately.
It looks like there is a bulge again — is the hernia back?After surgery, it is common for fluid to collect in the space where the hernia was. This is called a seroma. Your body will reabsorb the extra fluid with time, but this may take up to three months to resolve completely.
How do I prevent constipation while taking the narcotic pain medication?It is important to drink enough fluid, especially water, while taking narcotics. It is also recommended to take a stool softener (may be purchased over-the-counter). Adding raw fruits and vegetables to your diet can also help to prevent constipation.
Are there alternatives to narcotics for pain control?Alternatives that may be used for pain control instead of narcotics include acetominophen or ibuprofen (as long as there aren’t other reasons you may not take these medications). You may also apply a cold pack to the area of pain to ease discomfort. You may do this a few times a day for about 20 minutes at a time.
When may I return to work?The answer depends on the type of work you do, as well as what type of surgery you had. If your job requires lifting, you may not be able to return until your restrictions have expired. Some patients return to a desk job after about a week, but this will also depend upon how well you feel.
When is it OK to exercise again?Walking after surgery is highly encouraged. Climbing stairs is also OK. We will ask you to avoid strenuous activities for a few weeks, but after about four weeks, it is OK to add in more moderate physical activity, such as using an elliptical machine or riding a stationary bike. This will be discussed at your first post-operative visit in the clinic.
What puts me at risk for recurrence?You are more at risk for recurrence if you’ve had other hernias in the past. Heavy lifting also increases this risk as does smoking.
Date: April 17, 2012
Online Editor(s): Richard Petre