What Is A Hernia?
A hernia is the protrusion of an organ or part of an organ, or other structure, through the wall that normally contains it.
Hernias are very common – In the UK, about 120,000 hernia repairs are carried out each year.
There are several types, some of which are much more common than others, although the majority occur in the abdominal wall.
The abdominal wall acts like a strong internal corset for the abdominal contents. If a weakness develops in this corset, the pressure from within can allow fatty tissue or bowel to protrude through that weakness. Anything increasing the pressure in the abdomen may precipitate a hernia; for example, straining when constipated, chronic coughing or sneezing, being overweight, being pregnant or having to strain to pass urine.
Usually though, if a hernia is going to occur, it will happen anyway. The weakness leading to a hernia can occur in the groins, leading to inguinal or femoral hernias, around the umbilicus (belly button) or in the midline of the abdomen (umbilical and paraumbilical hernias), or between the strong rectus muscles (ventral or epigastric hernias. Weakness can also develop at sites of surgical procedures (incisional or parastomal hernias) or less commonly to one side of the midline (Spigelian hernia) or rarely in other areas.
Small hernias usually contain fat or the natural fatty apron in the abdominal cavity (omentum). When they become larger they may contain intestine which leads to the risk of becoming stuck (incarceration), having it’s blood supply restricted (strangulation) or blocking the bowel (intestinal obstruction).
These complications require emergency surgery.