Hernia Surgery Patient Care

What to Know about Hernias

Surgeons Jeffrey Blatnik, MD, Sara Holden, MD, and Arnab Majumder, MD, in an operating room with text overlay that reads: "What to know about hernias."

As people become more active, exercise and heavy lifting are likely to be on the rise. For those with weakened abdominal muscles, straining and heavy lifting could mean an increased risk for a hernia. Washington University hernia surgeons in St. Louis want everyone to know the causes and types of hernia, and be aware of symptoms and treatment options.

Washington University hernia surgeons specialize in minimally invasive surgery for hernia repair. They are also leaders in improving patient outcomes and educating patients about their surgical options.

What is a hernia?

A hernia happens when part of an internal organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in your muscle. Hernias are very common. They can affect men, women and children. There are different types of hernias, and they can have different symptoms for men and women.

Hernia causes

A hernia is caused by weakening or straining muscles. Certain factors can cause muscles to become strained or weakened. These include age, chronic coughing, congenital defects, injury and previous surgeries.

Common hernia causes:

  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Pregnancy
  • Constipation
  • Chronic coughing
  • Injury

Hernia types

There are several different types of hernias. A hernia can happen in any weak or torn part of the abdominal wall. The most common types of hernias are:

Inguinal hernia: These occur when the intestines push through a tear in the abdominal wall. The hernia is typically a small bulge in the groin. Inguinal hernias are the most common kind of hernia.

Femoral hernia: These are more common in women. They happen when part of the intestine pushes through the femoral canal.

Umbilical hernia: These are most common in newborns, though they can also happen to adults. An umbilical hernia occurs when fat or part of the intestine squeezes through the muscle near the belly button.

Incisional hernia: These are caused by weakness in the abdomen after surgery. If a person has surgery that requires an incision through the muscles of the stomach or abdomen, a hernia may protrude through the scars from that operation. These can happen months or even years after the surgery.

Hiatal hernia: These are most common in pregnant women and people over age 50. A hiatal hernia happens when part of the stomach pushes up into the diaphragm.

Hernia symptoms

Hernia symptoms can vary depending on the type of hernia, and the symptoms can be different for men and women. Common hernia symptoms include:

  • A lump or bulge in the affected area.
  • Pain in the area. This might be worse when coughing, lifting something heavy or bending over.
  • Pressure or heavy feeling in the abdomen.
  • Burning or aching feeling near the lump.
  • Men with inguinal hernias might have pain and swelling near the testicles.
  • Women might feel pelvic pain or acute pain in the affected area.

Hernia treatment

A hernia will not go away on its own. Surgery is usually recommended for treating most hernias. Washington University hernia surgeons specialize in treating all types of hernias. They are experts in minimally invasive hernia repair surgery, including laparoscopic and robotic surgery, as well as open procedures.

Minimally invasive hernia surgery uses smaller incisions than traditional open surgery. Patients who are treated with these techniques usually have a shorter hospital stay and a much faster recovery than with traditional open surgery.

After hernia surgery, patients can usually go home the same day, or after an overnight stay.

Washington University Hernia Surgeons

Washington University hernia surgeons see patients at the Center for Advanced Medicine, Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Christian Hospital.

Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery Michael Brunt, MD, leads a nationwide referral practice for collegiate and professional athletes with sports hernias.

Jeffrey Blatnik, MD, Sara Holden, MD, and Arnab Majumder, MD, are all experts in treating abdominal wall hernias with robotic surgery at the Center for Advanced Medicine and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.

In North St. Louis, Shuddhadeb Ray, MD, MPHS, specializes in minimally invasive techniques for hiatal hernia surgery at Christian Hospital.

For more information about hernia surgery, or hernia patient appointments at the Center for Advanced Medicine or Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, please call 314-454-8877.

For more information about Christian Hospital, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ray, visit the Christian Hospital website or call 314-747-9355.