Your Guide to Groin Hernias

Also known as an inguinal hernia, a groin hernia occurs when part of the intestine bulges through a weak place in the abdomen near the inguinal canal. Like most other types of hernias they can cause pain or be asymptomatic.

Types of Groin Hernias

There are 3 types of groin hernias.

Indirect hernias occur when the inguinal canal remains open after childbirth instead of closing as it should. Here it becomes possible for a portion of the intestine to move into the child’s inguinal canal, which is located near the groin. Up to 10% of premature infants are affected, while up to 5% of full term babies are affected by an indirect hernia.

Direct hernias occur when a portion of the intestine protrudes into a weakness in the abdominal muscles near the inguinal canal. This is much more common in adults, particularly in males, and the bulge can be on either side of the groin or it can also stick out from both sides.

A femoral hernia more frequently occurs in women. The lump or bulge appears just below the groin toward the upper part of the thigh. This condition is quite common in older and overweight women.

Basic Symptoms of a Groin or Inguinal Hernia

Inguinal hernias are visible at the pubic or groin area. They become more noticeable and enlarged when you cough or stand. Pain typically occurs when coughing or exercising, standing for long periods, when engaged in heavy lifting, or while straining to urinate or defecate.

An inguinal hernia can cause a sharp pain or burning sensation, and some describe a feeling a heaviness in the groin area. Men may experience swelling of the scrotum as well.

If the hernia becomes too large, it can become trapped or strangulated, making it impossible to push back in place. The blood supply to the intestine may be cut off, resulting in a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment.  

Causes and Risk Factors of Groin Hernias

There is no one cause of developing a groin hernia. Weak spots in the abdominal muscles are considered the main culprit. In addition, heredity, being a male, being born prematurely, being overweight or obese, having a chronic cough, chronic constipation, or being pregnant are all risk factors for developing a groin hernia.

Treatment Options for a Groin Hernia

man reading off computerGroin or inguinal hernias will not go away by themselves. Some adults can live with them for years if there are no real symptoms. When symptoms appear, it is best to see a hernia specialist for a reliable diagnosis and a recommended treatment plan.

There are three ways to treat a groin hernia: laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery, or open surgery. All are normally performed as outpatient procedures, and are each a very successful solution to treating a groin hernia.

In a laparoscopic surgery, several small incisions are made to facilitate the insertion of surgical instruments including a tube with a lighted video camera on its tip. These instruments allow the surgeon the ability to monitor the surgery in real time on a screen placed in front of them. The tissue is pushed back into place and the opening is secured with staples. Although this type of repair causes less discomfort and allows patients to return more quickly to normal activities, its long term success rate is actually a bit lower than an open repair.

Robotic surgery, as its title would suggest, is performed using the assistance of a robotic system. At Michigan Hernia Surgery, our specialists are each highly skilled in utilizing the da Vinci Surgical System for this particular procedure. The advantages to this type of surgery include more precise movements and even smaller incisions that will require less time to heal.

In open surgery, one large incision is made in the abdomen near the groin. The hernia surgeon pushes back the tissue and repairs the opening with stitches. Sometimes mesh is used to prevent another hernia from forming in this same area.   

It is important to speak with a surgeon who specializes in hernia repair about which type of surgery they may recommend for you, and to discuss the pros and cons of each option. Call (248) 551-9090 today to confirm a consultation with one of Detroit’s own hernia repair experts!

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