Inguinal hernias are incredibly common, but fortunately, so is the treatment process. Preparing for your upcoming inguinal hernia repair in Orange County, CA, can be nerve wracking, especially if you don’t know what to expect during recovery.
But that’s why we’re here to help. Here’s a look at a few common post-op hurdles and how you can manage them for a successful recovery.
Inguinal Hernia Repair: A Snapshot
1. Overview of the Condition
Understanding inguinal hernias starts with a basic understanding of the inguinal canal. While technically part of the lower anterior abdomen, the inguinal canal sits right above the thigh and forms part of the groin area. It serves as a passageway between structures in and outside the abdomen things like the spermatic cord in men and the uterus ligament in women.
Since the inguinal canal is, in fact, a canal with openings, other organs like the intestines can pass through and become stuck—which results in a hernia. Because of the inguinal canal’s anatomy, it presents a natural weak spot in the abdomen prone to hernias.
As such, inguinal hernias are by far the most common hernia type, but they usually occur in men. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, men are 8-10 times more likely than women to get an inguinal hernia, especially those who have had a prostatectomy.
The causes are diverse, but direct inguinal hernias are usually connected to a progressive weakening in the connective tissues and muscles surrounding the inguinal canal. For example, repeated strenuous activities like lifting or chronic constipation can weaken that area over time and lead to a hernia. Genetics and connective tissue disorders can also cause an inguinal hernia to develop. The natural weakening of muscles and tissues as people age is also a significant factor, considering inguinal hernias typically occur in people aged 75-80.
Indirect inguinal hernias can also occur because of an abdominal wall defect present at birth. The hernia might appear early on, from ages 0-5, or later in life.
2. Hernia Surgical Procedures Explained
Inguinal hernias do not go away on their own and require surgery. The traditional approach is open surgery, which requires a three- or four-inch incision near the hernia. Once the intestines are pushed back into place, the incision is closed to repair the hole.
This approach provides ample visibility but is invasive and requires a longer healing period for patients. Newer surgical procedures treat inguinal hernias in a much less invasive way. One such example is the laparoscopic method, which utilizes a couple of tiny incisions, usually about a quarter of an inch long.
During a laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon inserts hollow tubes called cannulas into those incisions. One cannula has a tiny telescope and special camera that enables enhanced visibility, while the other cannulas offer support. The surgeon then repairs the hernia and places a mesh over the affected area without ever physically touching the hernia.
Laparoscopic hernia surgery is the preferred method since it’s much less invasive. However, there are circumstances when open surgery is the only option, usually in emergent or complex situations.
It’s important to note that there are newer, less invasive surgical procedures that are becoming more popular, mainly robotic hernia surgery. This approach is very similar to laparoscopic surgery but utilizes state of the art equipment for improved precision and visibility.
Navigating the Post-Operative Journey
1. Physical Challenges
The first few days after an inguinal hernia repair in Orange County, CA, are typically the most difficult. Some mild pain and discomfort are common during the first few days after surgery. Most patients manage their pain with either over the counter pain meds or prescription medications for the first week or so after their inguinal hernia repair operation.
Patients can also expect some swelling and bruising around the surgical site. These symptoms are normal and tend to reside within the first few weeks. Cold compresses can ease the discomfort during this time.
Keep in mind that the duration of physical challenges patients experience depends on several factors including the type and complexity of hernia treated, type of hernia repair performed and patient’s health profile. Traditional or open inguinal hernia repair surgery poses more complication risks, physical challenges, and a longer recovery time than laparoscopic and robotic hernia surgery.
2. Mobility Limitations
Most hernia repair patients are sent home from the surgical clinic on the same day of their procedure. Patients are encouraged to avoid resting too much and to spend some time walking and moving around to promote healing and a faster return to their before surgery and routine. Patients should avoid lifting heavy options for at least two weeks and check in with their surgeon before returning to any exercise or sports routine.
3. Digestive Concerns
Patients can usually return to their normal diet right after inguinal hernia repair. However, some mild nausea or an upset stomach is normal. To ease any digestive comfort that may occur as a residual effect of the anesthesia, patients should start with soft foods and clear fluids. Plain, low-fat foods like toast and broiled chicken can also help.
However, excess gas and bloating are common and there is a potential for constipation. An increase in fluids and fiber and the use of stool softener can help facilitate regular, easy to pass bowel movements.
4. Wound Management
Inguinal hernia repair patients receive post operative guidelines on how to care for their surgical site and repair hernia. Avoid getting the area wet, keep it clean, and follow all wound care instructions provided to prevent infection and prolonged discomfort. Patients should monitor themselves for signs of infection, i.e., fever or redness, oozing, and skin that is hot or tender to the touch and see their surgeon for all follow up appointments and immediate concerns.
Tips to Overcome Recovery Hurdles
1. Pain Management, Activity Restrictions, and Rest
Managing pain and discomfort is essential during the first week post-op. Take all prescribed medication as directed. Consider using ice compresses to alleviate any pain or soreness and to use pillows as support when moving to prevent placing unnecessary stress on the abdominal muscles.
While there are activity restrictions in place for the first few weeks after inguinal hernia repair surgery, walking and light movements are beneficial for reducing inflammation, stiffness and reconditioning the muscles and tissues as they heal. Rest is also imperative, as it allows the body time to heal. It’s essential for patients to avoid strenuous activities, sudden movements, and operating any machinery or a motor vehicle until medically cleared by their hernia repair surgeon.
3. Dietary Adjustments
Hernia repair surgery temporarily impairs proper digestive function. A diet that’s high in fiber, clear, non-carbonated and non-caffeinated fluids can help the digestive system resume its normal capacity quicker, minimize bloating and gas, and prevent difficulty passing stools.
4. Mental Health Considerations
Having surgery and dealing with the recovery process can be overwhelming especially for patients who are used to a very active lifestyle. The mandatory rest can make recovery seem isolating for some, increasing the risk of anxiety or post-op depression.
Patients are encouraged to rely on their friends and family for support to make their recovery easier and alleviate any feelings of stress or anxiety they experience. Patients can also consider emotional support groups for continued post-op support.
Red Flags After Inguinal Hernia Surgery: When to Seek Medical Attention
1. Infection Indicators
The incision site should look and feel better each consecutive day. If it does not, that could be a warning sign. For example, any prolonged redness, heat, pus, or persistent pain is indicative of an infection. If these symptoms are also accompanied by a fever and increased swelling, the patient should seek immediate medical care, antibiotics are necessary.
2. Digestive Disturbances
Bowel movements may be sluggish and slow to return to normal initially after inguinal hernia repair in Orange County, CA. Patients should reach out to their specialist if they experience nausea, vomiting, an inability to consume foods or fluids, or notice prolonged or an increase in bloating or gas pain, or difficulty passing bowels as these could indicate bowel obstruction.
3. Resurgence of Hernia Symptoms
Hernia recurrences are, unfortunately, quite common. Patients should be aware of this risk and watch for any signs of hernia resurgence, such as a lump, swelling, or hardening under the skin or pain in the groin. Recurrence can happen years later, so patients should stay vigilant and regularly check in with their physician just to be on the safe side.
The Path Ahead: Long Term Considerations
1. Returning to Normalcy
Patients can typically return to their normal activities shortly after their operation. Laparoscopic hernia repair patients can expect to return to work within a couple of days (if it doesn’t involve intensive physical labor), while those who undergo conventional inguinal hernia surgery often take a week or longer to return to work.
Likewise, patients can start light exercises after a week or two and gradually build up to more strenuous activities. They should allow at least two weeks before lifting, though, and make sure to attend post-op appointments before participating in hard-core exercises or sports.
2. Future Prevention
Hernias aren’t always preventable, but there are measures that can reduce the risk of hernia recurrence, such as avoiding placing additional stress on the abdominal muscles, consuming a healthy diet, rich in fruits, fiber, and fluids and maintaining a normal weight and exercise routine. Alcohol, nicotine, and other recreational substances can weaken the abdominal muscles, increasing the likelihood of hernia development.
Inguinal hernia repair in Orange County, CA, is a straightforward procedure with a quick recovery time especially for laparoscopic and robotic surgery patients. The key is to follow your hernia repair specialist’s guidance and find the balance between rest and gentle exercise.
Of course, the recovery process can be much easier if you have open communication with your hernia specialist. Find a hernia repair surgeon in Orange County, CA, you feel comfortable with and discuss your questions and concerns. You can also reach out to others who have had inguinal hernia repair to hear about their experience and recovery process. The more support you have, the better.
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.