An incisional hernia is a hernia that develops along a prior surgical incision in the abdomen. A surgical incision compromises the integrity of the abdominal muscles, causing them to become weakened and allowing abdominal tissues and/or organs to push through the abdominal wall more easily. Incisional hernias can occur within as little as a few months of an operation or a few years following the procedure.
Symptoms of Incisional Hernia
Initially, patients may notice a bulge at the site of a healed surgical incision. Additional symptoms associated with incisional hernias include:
- Redness and a burning sensation of the bulge
- Pain that increases when straining or lifting heavy objects
- Constipation, which can occur as a result of scar tissue blocking the intestines
- Nausea and/or vomiting, in case of infection
Causes of Incisional Hernia
Incisional hernias are most likely to occur within three and six weeks from surgery when the incision is still healing. Individuals who are at a higher risk of developing an incisional hernia include those who:
- Are older
- Are overweight or obese
- Have had the same incision opened more than once
- Have taken steroid medications
What to Expect at Your Appointment
During your appointment, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and will perform a physical examination. In order to make a definitive diagnosis and assess the severity of the hernia, your doctor may prescribe one of the following diagnostic techniques:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- Ultrasound imaging
Additionally, your doctor may want to check for any signs of infection by prescribing a blood test or a urine test.
Non-surgical Treatments for Incisional Hernia
Incisional hernias do not heal on their own and require surgical intervention to repair.
Surgical Treatment for Incisional Hernia and Post-Treatment
The goal of incisional hernia repair surgery is to remove any scar tissue surrounding the previous incision and repair the opening of the abdominal muscles. Open hernia repair is typically recommended to repair incisional hernias. This is because scar tissue around a previous incision can make it difficult to insert and work with laparoscopic tools. Also, an open repair procedure allows surgeons to place mesh on either side of the affected abdominal muscle, providing more secure reinforcement and stability.
Patients may be required to stay in the hospital for a few days after the procedure. The amount of time will depend on the overall health of the patient. Patients can typically return to daily activities within one to two weeks of surgery but should wait at least six weeks before participating in vigorous exercise.