Hernias: Inguinal, Ventral, Incisional, Umbilical, Hiatal and Femoral

A hernia is when tissue inside your body pushes through a weak section in the muscle of your abdomen or groin.

 

There are several types of hernias:

  • Inguinal hernia – occurs on the inside of the groin
  • Ventral (abdominal) hernia – includes lumbar, spigelian and epigastric hernias
  • Incisional hernia – occurs after abdominal surgery at the site of the incision
  • Umbilical hernia – occurs at the belly button, most commonly in infants
  • Hiatal hernia – occurs when the stomach bulges into the chest
  • Femoral hernia – rare, occurs on the inside of the groin near the thigh

 

Some hernias cause only mild or uncomfortable symptoms, while others can be life-threatening.

 

In most instances, hernias do not improve on their own and need to be surgically repaired to reduce the risk of serious complications.

Our Approach to Treating Hernias

At Houston Methodist, our surgeons specializing in general surgery are experts in diagnosing and treating all types of hernias — from ones that are common to those that are rare.

 

When hernias are complex, our surgeons leverage their extensive experience, the latest surgical techniques and advanced imaging to perform open hernia surgery.

 

In addition to being experts in open hernia surgery, our specialists are skilled at performing laparoscopic hernia repairs. This minimally invasive surgical technique can be used to treat most hernias, and it may result in reduced post-operative discomfort and shorten the duration of recovery.

About Hernias

How Can You Tell If You Have a Hernia?

Most hernias cause pain and discomfort, but the signs and symptoms of a hernia can differ slightly depending on the type of hernia.

 

While hernias often result in a visible bulge under the skin, this isn’t always the case.

 

Inguinal hernia symptoms include:

  • A bulge on one side of your groin area, often accompanied by burning or aching
  • Discomfort, weakness, pressure or pain in your upper groin, particularly while bending
  • In some men, swelling and discomfort around the testicles

 

Ventral hernia symptoms include:

  • A bulge in your abdomen, often accompanied by pain
  • Changes in bowel habits, including constipation, diarrhea or narrow stool
  • Signs of infection, including nausea or vomiting, fever and increased heart rate

 

Incisional hernia symptoms include:

  • A visible bulge at the incision site of an abdominal surgery, often accompanied by burning or aching
  • Discomfort, weakness, pressure or pain in your abdomen
  • Changes in bowel habits, including constipation, diarrhea or narrow stool
  • Signs of infection, including nausea or vomiting, fever and increased heart rate

 

Umbilical hernia symptoms include:

  • A bulge near or inside the belly button, which, in infants, may only be apparent when crying or coughing
  • Tenderness, swelling or pain at the site of the bulge
  • Abdominal discomfort (in adults)
  • Signs of infection, including nausea or vomiting, fever and increased heart rate

 

Hiatal hernia symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Belching
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea

 

Femoral hernia symptoms include:

  • A bulge on one side of your upper groin near the thigh, often accompanied by burning or aching
  • Discomfort, weakness, pressure or pain in your groin, particularly while bending

How is a Hernia Diagnosed?

Some hernias are easily diagnosed during a physical exam, especially if a bulge is visible.

 

However, whether a bulge is present or not and depending on the type of hernia suspected, diagnosis is confirmed via one or more of the following tests:

  • X-ray
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • CT scan
  • MRI

When Is Hernia Repair Surgery Needed?

If a hernia is small, is not causing serious pain or discomfort and there are no signs of infection, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting.

 

However, hernia repair surgery is often ultimately needed, as hernias don’t heal on their own, instead growing and becoming mor painful over time.

 

Depending on your specific condition and type of hernia, your doctor may be able to perform laparoscopic hernia repair. This minimally invasive procedure uses small abdominal incisions and special tools to place stitches and a synthetic, supportive mesh that reinforce the weakened muscle after the tissue is pushed back in.

 

In more complex cases, hernia repair requires open hernia surgery rather than laparoscopic techniques.

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