If you have had abdominal surgery, you are at risk to develop an incisional hernia, also known as a ventral hernia. This type of hernia only occurs after such a surgery, and the more abdominal surgeries you experience, the higher your risk to develop one.
Many people live with incisional hernias for several years, but at some point this noticeable bulge may need to be treated.
How an Incisional Hernia Develops
Incisional hernias occur at the site of a healing incision after an abdominal surgery. An incision made during surgery that does not heal properly can leave a vulnerable gap in the muscle that inner organs will begin to poke through, leaving a visible bulge on the outside of the abdomen.
An incisional hernia commonly occurs within 3 – 6 months of having surgery since our bodies remain weak during the healing process. In fact, 50% of incisional hernias occur within the first 2 years following surgery. If someone becomes pregnant during this 2 year time period, or engages in activity that puts increased pressure on the abdomen like lifting heavy objects, it drastically increases the risk of developing an incisional hernia.
Additional causes include straining during bowel movements, coughing, and sneezing. You can usually see a small lump or bump at the site of the incision that will appear and then go away, typically when the person shifts position or coughs. As time passes the bump may get larger and become painful, which is when you know it is time so see a specialist like Dr. Janczyk or Dr. Iacco for treatment.
Risk Factors for an Incisional Hernia
All wounds heal better among non-smokers and those who manage any existing medical conditions like diabetes. Obesity can be a risk factor for the development of an incisional hernia, since the extra weight can strain all sorts of movement.
Other top contributors to the formation of an incisional hernia include:
- Poor wound care
How Our Surgeons Treat Incisional Hernias
Many people with an incisional hernia are unhappy with the look of the bulge in their abdomen, which will typically only become bigger over time. In this case, the patient may seek treatment to remove the hernia and improve their physical appearance.
If there is no real pain associated with the hernia, a truss or girdle may be worn to keep constant pressure on the hernia. This pressure is helpful because it holds all internal structures in place, so that they do not continue poking outward through the separated muscles of the abdominal wall.
When is Surgery Needed for an Incisional Hernia?
Surgical treatment becomes necessary when the hernia is severely painful, is very large, and continues to grow. Since all surgeries come with risks and benefits, our hernia surgery specialists will help you to evaluate your individual situation to find the best solution to your symptoms.
If an incisional hernia gets stuck in the “out” position, it is called an incarcerated hernia.
Emergency Incisional Hernia Treatment
An incarcerated hernia can quickly become an emergency situation if the hernia stops getting any blood supply to the tissues and becomes “strangulated”. With a strangulated hernia, the skin around the bulge will turn dark red or purple to indicate blood loss, which will lead to death of the tissue if the hernia is not treated in time.
Additional signs of an emergency situation include:
- Severe pain
- Abdominal swelling