Identifying and Treating Ventral Hernias

A hernia, generally, occurs when the contents of the abdominal cavity, such as the small intestines, bulge through a weakened or perforated area somewhere in the abdominal wall. There are different types of hernias that are classified by where this happens. A ventral hernia is a hernia that occurs through the abdominal wall muscles, as opposed to the groin area (inguinal hernia and femoral hernia), navel region (umbilical hernia) or through the diaphragm (hiatal hernia). A ventral hernia is most common through the midline of the abdomen, but they can occur through other locations in the abdominal wall as well. Ventral hernias are more common in people who have had abdominal surgery in the past. When a ventral hernia protrudes through an incisional scar, it could also be classified as an incisional hernia.

A ventral hernia may cause pain and discomfort, or it may be painless in some cases. The hernia may be an obvious bulge in the abdomen, or it may be small and more prevalent during certain actions, like standing. In most cases, if the hernia is pressed, it can be pushed back into the abdomen temporarily. If a lot of swelling occurs, this might not be possible and prompt medical treatment is necessary.

The best treatment for a ventral hernia is surgery to repair the hernia, because surgery is the only permanent solution. Other treatments for ventral hernias will only provide temporary relief. Surgery also reduces the chances of developing serious complications from a hernia, including hernia strangulation, or tissue damage from the hernia becoming trapped and constricted. The larger and more painful the hernia, the more likely a doctor is to recommend hernia repair surgery right away. In some cases, it may be okay to prolong surgery as long as the hernia is monitored to make sure it is not getting worse. Hernia repair surgery for ventral hernias involves closing the hole in the abdominal wall and reinforcing the weakened spot so that the hernia does not recur. Ventral incisional hernias may be more difficult to treat than other kinds of hernias, because the hernia occurs through a surgical incision and it is more difficult to reinforce scar tissue than tissue that has not been previously injured. It is estimated that around 1 to 3% of treated hernias that occur through a previous incision will recur.


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