Hernias are a common condition in both men and women—and are generally harmless if they are addressed appropriately. Some people actually live with hernias their entire life and they’re nothing more than a bit uncomfortable at times. In some cases, no surgical intervention is needed.
However, individuals living with painful hernias that inhibit daily activities will require surgical attention. Benjamin Sadowitz, MD, Board Certified General Surgeon at Crouse Medical Practice Surgical Services, says it’s important to fix the hernia so that part of the intestine does not get “stuck” in it.
“A hernia is actually a hole in the abdominal wall, which is comprised of many layers. The most important layer in terms of hernia is the connective tissue layer. If that layer has been disrupted and there’s a hole there, materials can push through that hole, like your intestines or the fatty drape that covers the intestines,” he explains. “Now, if that fatty drape pushes in there and gets stuck, that’s not as urgent as if a piece of intestine gets trapped in there.”
What Causes Hernias?
One common culprit in hernia development is heavy lifting, which puts pressure on the abdominal wall. Dr. Sadowitz notes that even something like playing the trumpet can generate a tremendous amount of pressure. If someone has had a prior surgery, the point of incision may weaken the abdominal wall and be more susceptible to hernia.
“It’s certainly not uncommon to have an incident where there’s a heavy lift, or a pull or a push, and people all of a sudden feel pain or a ‘pop’—something that would indicate they have a hernia in the area.”
Advancements in Hernia Surgery Ensure Positive Outcomes
Hernia surgery has advanced greatly over the years. A minimally invasive approach allows for faster recovery and less pain.
During the procedure, surgeons make a small incision to close the hole and then reinforce the area with a piece of mesh. While there are critics of mesh—you may have seen commercials for class action lawsuits—Dr. Sadowitz assures mesh technology has also advanced and is safe for use.
“The bulk of the meshes we use nowadays are very porous, so your body’s own tissues grow into it and use it almost like a scaffold. A lot of these meshes are made of polypropylene, which is the same material as much of our suture material. Without using mesh, you’re at a higher risk of recurrent hernia. And it’s all about minimizing risks.”
Commonality Among Men and Women
Due to the body’s structure, men tend to experience groin hernias more frequently than women. On the flip side, belly-button hernias are common in women who have had multiple children. “Their abdominal wall gets stretched out during pregnancy, making them more prone to hernias,” shares Dr. Sadowitz.
That said, the primary instigator of hernia is a prior surgery. “If you’ve had a previous operation, that’s really the number-one cause of hernia in the U.S. Certainly, we see our fair share of people who haven’t had surgery who have belly button hernias and groin hernias. But the bulk of the hernias are from previous surgery,” he adds.
Patients can minimize risk of hernia by mitigating three key factors: smoking, diabetes, and obesity. Per Dr. Sadowitz, smoking is a well-known risk factor that routinely ruins hernia repairs. “If we see patients for hernia and they’re smoking, we make them quit.” Patients are encouraged to get their diabetes well under control and also lose weight if they are overweight or obese.
“That combination of factors, or even one of those factors, really affects hernia repair. We do our best to get those three patient factors controlled before surgery.”
**To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Benjamin Sadowitz,MD, Board Certified General Surgeon at Crouse Medical Practice Surgical Services, click here.
Crouse News is reported by members of our Communications Team.