Suspected Hernia? Don't Delay Treatment

Submitted by Dr. Stephen Lin on October 14, 2019

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All hernias warrant a closer look.

They can range from painless to extremely painful, but all hernias, even suspected ones, warrant a closer look from a medical professional.

A woman holding on to her back with a hernia

A hernia is essentially a hole caused by an organ pushing through a weak spot in the abdominal muscle or tissue. They typically appear in the abdomen (incisional), belly button (umbilical) and the upper thigh or groin area (inguinal).  Hiatal hernias, which often cause reflux, are typically produced when the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity.

Abdominal-area hernias are caused by a combination of muscle weakness and straining. Muscle weakness can be caused by lifestyle factors, surgery, medical conditions or age. When this weakness is combined with abdominal tension from heavy lifting, pregnancy, constipation, coughing or weight gain, it can be a dangerous formula for hernia development.

Factors that increase the chance of developing a hernia.

Hernias can range from very small, almost invisible to the naked eye, to enormous. The following factors can increase your chance of developing a hernia:

  • Being overweight or experiencing sudden weight gain
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic coughing
  • Abdominal surgery, particularly one with a surgical site infection
  • A job that requires heavy lifting

The most common symptom of an abdominal-area hernia is a bulge or lump in the impacted area. However, some hernias can be painful, especially when under stress from lifting or coughing. Some of my patients also experience a burning or bubbling sensation at the site of the hernia.

What to do when a hernia forms.

Once a hernia forms, they do not go away on their own and most will eventually require medical treatment. A surgeon who specializes in the treatment of abdominal hernias can give you the most up-to-date options for treating your specific hernia, including:

Watchful waiting

If it’s small and not troublesome, I work with my patients to keep an eye on the hernia. There is no need to rush to treatment.

Laparoscopic robotic surgery

The most minimally invasive option is a surgery that requires only two-to-four small incisions in the area of the hernia. I use a camera and a guided robotic device to reach the site of the hernia and repair the abdominal wall. This type of surgery typically requires no overnight stay and has proven to have reduced recovery time and side effects.

Traditional open surgery

This is the type of surgery that most people picture when they envision an operating room in action. The surgeon works with his or her team to perform a surgery at the site of the hernia. We use this type of surgical treatment to repair and rebuild the abdominal wall. Most typically, this is used for larger and more symptomatic hernias.

No matter the size of your hernia, or the symptoms you are experiencing, it is important to have your hernia evaluated by a trained physician. Delaying treatment can cause increased and prolonged pain as well as the possibility of more invasive treatment down the road.  At our Hernia Center, we believe it is so important to have early hernia intervention that we offer hernia assessments with and without referrals.

A board-certified general surgeon, Dr. Stephen Lin earned his medical degree from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C. and completed a residency in general surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Dr. Lin specializes in advanced minimally invasive robotic, laparoscopic and single-site surgery techniques. He performs surgery on gallbladder, hernia, reflux and colon conditions with the da Vinci® surgical system. Dr. Lin is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Hernia Society and has locations in Chesapeake and North Carolina.