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A common condition, hernias can develop in both men and women and can be the cause of great discomfort. To help our patients better understand this condition as well as the treatment options, our extensively trained hernia surgeons, Dr. David Albin and his son Dr. Michael Albin, have provided answers to some of the most common questions about this condition. If you would like to know more, we encourage you to contact our skilled medical team and schedule a consultation.

What is a hernia?

While there are several different types of hernias, they all commonly involve the displacement of an organ or fatty tissue through a weak area in nearby muscle or fascia (connective tissue). Basically, a sac of tissue pushes through an opening in the tissues of the abdominal wall. Causes for the abdominal opening or weakness can include a congenital abnormality as well as sudden or repetitive abdominal muscle strain. When a hernia develops, many patients notice a bulging protrusion in the area where the herniation has occurred, and many people experience discomfort, although some individuals will not notice any signs of concern.

A hernia can occur in virtually any area of the abdominal wall; however, it is more common in certain locations than others. The groin is the most frequent site for this condition, and this type is called an inguinal hernia. Other types of hernias include umbilical hernias, which push through the navel, femoral hernias, which push through below the groin and into the canal where the femoral artery travels, and incisional hernias, which push through surgical scars.

Hernias require different kinds of treatment. A reducible hernia is one where the tissue sac can be put back into place without the need for invasive techniques or surgery. Three other types of hernias, irreducible, incarcerated, and imprisoned, cannot be pushed back into place and require prompt surgical repair.

Who does this condition usually affect?

Stress and strain on the abdominal wall, either sudden or repeated, is the most common cause of hernias, and this condition affects as many as five million people in America each year. Some hernias are there from birth (congenital), but they are more commonly associated with certain types of activity, including:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Chronic straining during urination
  • Pulling, twisting, or otherwise abruptly straining the muscles
  • Recurrent coughing attacks
  • Lifting or pushing heavy objects or loads

What are the symptoms?

Some of the most common symptoms of a hernia include:

  • A visible bulge, lump, or swelling in the abdomen or around the groin; may become more noticeable when you stand upright, cough, or strain
  • Pain, pressure, weakness, or discomfort in the abdomen or groin that worsens with strenuous activity
  • Burning or aching sensation in the groin or abdomen

Indications of an incarcerated hernia that has become strangulated (blood flow is cut off) include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Sudden burst of intensifying pain
  • Bulge becomes red, purple, or dark
  • Difficulty or inability to pass gas or a bowel movement

Can a hernia heal on its own?

While reducible hernias can be pushed back into place, this condition will not heal on its own. A reducible hernia is not an urgent concern, but it will continue to worsen for months and possibly years until addressed, and this issue can be quite painful. Irreducible, incarcerated, and imprisoned hernias are much more serious and can become life-threatening if the organ (usually the intestine) becomes pinched, trapped, or strangulated within the abdominal opening. This causes the blood to be cut off to the tissue, an emergency situation that requires immediate surgery.

Can you treat complex hernias?

The Hernia Center of Southern California receives numerous referrals from other general surgeons when a hernia specialist is required. Our state-of-the-art Tension-Free Mesh technique, or “Albin Technique,” is often successful at repairing large, recurrent and complex hernias.

How long will recovery take?

Everyone’s rate of healing is unique, and the amount of time it will take for you to recover depends on several factors, including the type of hernia, the location of the condition, and the chosen repair method. At the Hernia Center of Southern California, we utilize the most advanced techniques available, which are designed to reduce post-operative discomfort, limit post-operative restrictions, and expedite recovery. Our patients typically are able to return to everyday activities within a few days of surgery and can return to work and back to recreational activities within one to two weeks.

When will I be able to return to work?

The Tension-Free Mesh repair method used at our practice is intended to help patients heal quickly and return to normal life faster. One of the many potential benefits of this technique is minimal post-operative pain. If your job or daily responsibilities involve primarily sedentary work, such as secretarial or office work, you should be able to return in about three to five days. It’s not unusual to experience minor discomfort, which can be addressed with over-the-counter medications (Advil®, Motrin®, and Tylenol®, for example). It’s important to avoid lifting anything over 20 pounds for two or so weeks after surgery.

If your job has more strenuous physical requirements that involve lifting 20-40 pounds and remaining on your feet for long hours, such as plumbers, electricians, factory workers, retail workers, and mechanics, you should wait about two weeks to return to your regular duties. Stockers and other workers who routinely lift heavier loads should either follow restrictions for physical activity or wait until they are more fully healed to return to work, about four weeks. This applies to individuals in construction, road work, heavy duty mechanics, and individuals who load and unload pallet jacks throughout the day, as well as anyone who performs other types of intense strenuous labor.

When will I be able to return to sports and other recreational activity?

We typically recommend that patients return to their preferred exercise regimen and recreational activity in progressive stages. We will customize each recovery program to suit the individual needs and goals of the patient, with respect to the type of hernia operation, form of exercise, and other factors. You can begin performing light activity within the first week after surgery, with more moderate recreation in weeks two and three. After four weeks, you can usually return to strenuous activities. Activities are performed four times weekly, gradually increasing in intensity.

Can I travel soon after the operation?

Our minimally invasive approach to hernia surgery makes it possible for patients to return home the same day as the operation. We recommend waiting at least 14 hours after the procedure to board an airplane or travel long distance, and individuals in recovery should not operate a vehicle. If you come from outside the state or from far distances within the state, we recommend that you stay at local lodging for the evening. A follow-up appointment will be scheduled within the same week, after which point you should be able to fly, drive, or return home by any means you prefer. If you would like help finding appropriate lodging, we can offer assistance. Call us at (626) 584-6116 for more information.

How do I choose a hernia surgeon?

We at the Hernia Center of Southern California understand that everyone who comes into our office is a singular individual with needs and circumstances unique only to you. This is why we customize each surgery and recovery. Most general surgeons will perform hernia surgery within their practice, completing an average of roughly 25 hernias each year. We perform between 10 and 20 hernia surgeries each week. Every year we perform hundreds of hernia-specific surgeries here at the Hernia Center of Southern California. We prioritize an exceptional level of care and leading techniques we have perfected, all of which is designed to give you the optimal outcome. When given a choice, most people will go with a surgeon with extensive training and experience, understanding that this could lead to safer and more effective hernia repair.

Do existing medical conditions pose a surgical risk?

As with any surgery, there are pre-existing conditions that could complicate the surgery and there are others that typically do not. If the medical concern, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and similar issues, is well-controlled, surgery is often very tolerable for our patients. The procedure is typically performed using local rather than general anesthetic, so that helps to reduce the risk of complications. If you’re concerned about your medical condition, you can discuss your questions over the phone with our skilled medical team. Depending on your needs, you may need authorization from your primary care physician prior to receiving the treatment.

How do I schedule the surgery?

To make this process as easy and quick as possible, the Hernia Center of Southern California offers convenient scheduling options for our patients. Surgery often can be performed with as little as one to two days lead time, potentially even less. We will also strive to select a date for the operation on a day that works best for your itinerary. If you wish to arrange surgery by phone, or have other specific scheduling questions, please contact our office. For your convenience, we have all the appropriate patient medical history forms available. You may print, complete, and either fax or mail them ahead of time to speed up scheduling for you.

Will there be follow-up office appointments?

Post-operative care is included free with the operation, even past the standard four-to-six week recovery period, for all of our patients. A follow-up appointment will be scheduled immediately following your surgery, and it usually takes place about one week after the procedure. Your comfort, safety, and results are our highest priorities, and we endeavor to provide attentive care that helps you return to normal life as quickly and as safely as possible. We will go over all the details of the recovery with you during your initial consultation, and any questions you may have will be reviewed at that time. If you would like additional information, simply reach out to our skilled medical team.

What if I have additional questions?

You are always welcome to call us at (626) 584-6116 or contact our practice online to learn more about hernias and hernia treatment. We also encourage you to review our website for additional information about this common condition. If our staff members are unable to answer any of your questions, you will be contacted by one of our surgeons.

Talk to us today to learn more about your hernia treatment options and to schedule an appointment.

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Feeling pain? Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Feeling pain? Schedule an appointment today.   626.584.6116