Inguinal hernia surgery is a fairly routine procedure. Since these hernias are so common (primarily in men), surgeons complete over 800,000 inguinal hernia repairs yearly.
However, just because it’s a standard procedure doesn’t mean you can immediately return to your everyday lifestyle. You still need to take precautions after the surgery to ensure proper healing and prevent a hernia recurrence.
Here’s a helpful guide to the top dos and don’ts for a successful recovery.
Do Follow the Surgeon’s Instructions
Following your surgeon’s post-op care guidelines is one of the most important things to do after inguinal hernia surgery in Orange County. They understand your medical history and have developed a personalized care plan to reduce any risks. So your best bet for a quick and complete recovery is to adhere to those instructions.
Your surgeon will likely give you a list of dietary restrictions for the first few days after your operation. While it may seem excessive, maintaining this diet is essential for proper healing in your intestines and abdomen wall. You don’t want to eat anything that can irritate your digestive system since that can jeopardize your recovery.
The post-op guidelines will also include what medications you can take. Make sure to take them as prescribed to help you manage the pain and swelling.
Other instructions will cover wound care and hygiene practices. These may vary depending on the procedure you received (open or laparoscopic). Still, you must properly wash the incision area and ensure it doesn’t become infected.
And finally, your surgeon will explain any activity restrictions or limitations. Again, these instructions can vary between patients, but you should avoid strenuous activities for a few weeks.
Don’t Lift Heavy Objects
Even if the rest of your body feels strong and healthy, your abdominal wall and incision are still healing. So don’t be tempted to lift that heavy box or help a friend move immediately after undergoing inguinal hernia repair.
The force of lifting heavy objects can strain your abdomen muscles and cause the hernia to reoccur—which would mean another surgical procedure and more recovery time. Wait at least two weeks after your surgery before lifting anything—longer if you lift weights. And even then, it should only be with your doctor’s explicit approval.
During those first two weeks post-op, you should avoid anything that can strain your abdomen—not just lifting. For example, something as simple as sitting straight up in bed can strain your abdomen. Try rolling to your side first, then pushing up with your hands.
The same thing goes for other movements. Take it slow, and avoid using your abdomen muscles any more than necessary. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends during those first few days.
Do Get Adequate Rest
Laparoscopic and robotic surgery options have become more common for hernia repair, allowing quicker recovery. However, that doesn’t mean you can immediately return to your routine.
Inguinal hernia repair is still surgery, and your body needs time to heal. Make sure you schedule enough time off work—about 1-2 weeks, depending on your type of job and surgical procedure. Use that time to relax and ensure you’re getting enough sleep.
Even if you want to immediately return to your activities, sleep is essential to help reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, and promote healing. Try to limit time on electronics before going to sleep and keep your room dark and quiet to encourage quality sleep.
Don’t Ignore Pain or Discomfort
While some pain and discomfort after inguinal hernia surgery are normal, they should not be severe—especially if you’re taking pain medication. You can expect mild or moderate pain, but it should improve within a few days.
If your pain and discomfort don’t improve or worsen, contact your doctor immediately since that could be a sign of a hernia mesh failure. Other warning signs include a bulge or swelling at the incision site, which could be accompanied by a rash.
You should also contact your doctor if you have trouble using the bathroom. This could be a sign of an obstruction in the bowel caused by intestines or scar tissue adhering to the mesh.
Do Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet helps promote healing and keeps you strong while you give your body time to rest. For example, eating enough protein helps maintain your muscles, while carbohydrates boost your energy levels.
However, you might not be able to start with a protein- and carbohydrate-rich diet immediately after your surgery. Since your surgeon will repair your intestines and abdomen wall, they will likely recommend a liquid diet for the first few days to promote easy digestion. Your meals might include fresh juices, broth, and yogurt.
To help avoid constipation after your surgery, you should also eat plenty of fiber-rich foods like pears, apples, oats, and carrots. Try and avoid any foods that typically make you gassy, like beans. Another good choice is food with plenty of water, like melons and celery, to help you stay hydrated.
Don’t Engage in Strenuous Activities
Just like you shouldn’t lift heavy objects after a hernia surgery, you should also avoid any type of strenuous activities for at least 1-2 weeks post-op. These include things you might not typically consider strenuous, like aerobics, biking, and running.
You use your torso for every movement, whether you realize it or not. And an inguinal hernia surgery occurs on your lower abdomen wall, so any exercise can stretch the incision and pull on the hernia mesh.
That said, it’s important to start moving right after surgery to ensure proper healing. But you don’t want to overdo it and cause a hernia recurrence. Your doctor will probably encourage you to take things slow after your operation, starting with simple movements like slowly getting out of bed and walking around your house.
Over time, you can return to your normal activities but always clear them with your surgeon first. Even if you feel well enough to start exercising again, you want to give your abdomen wall and intestines enough time to heal.
Do Practice Proper Wound Care
After your surgery, your surgeon will likely cover the incision and ask you to keep it on for 24-48 hours. That usually means you can’t shower during that time.
Once those first few days are over, you can remove the dressings and gently wash the area with soap and water. Make sure to let the incision completely dry. You can usually leave it uncovered after those first 48 hours.
Monitor your wound for any signs of infection, like redness, warmth around the area, or a fever. If you think the wound is becoming infected, contact your doctor immediately.
Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco Products
Ideally, you should stop smoking well before your hernia operation for optimal outcomes. According to a recent study, smokers who underwent hernia surgery were at an increased risk for readmission and post-op complications like infections.
The nicotine slows down your blood flow, lengthening or hindering your healing process. Even if you smoked before the surgery, stopping afterward can help improve your chances of a smooth recovery.
Do Attend Follow-up Appointments
Your surgeon will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your healing progress. You must attend every visit to ensure the incision is healing correctly and the hernia doesn’t return. Your surgeon can also identify any early signs of complications and help you quickly get the necessary treatment.
These appointments can also be the perfect time to ask any questions about your post-op care. For example, you can ask when you can return to specific activities and how to adjust your diet to improve your digestion.
Even though inguinal hernia surgery in Orange County is a routine procedure, it still requires proper post-op care. Closely follow your surgeon’s care guidelines and watch for warning signs like continued pain and discomfort.
With the proper care, you can expect a smooth recovery. Just remember to consult with your surgeon about any questions or concerns early on to avoid complications.
To find out if inguinal hernia repair surgery is right for you, Contact Orange County General Robotic Surgery at (714) 706-1257 for a consultation with Dr. Abtin H. Khosravi.