Choosing the right surgeon can help you avoid hernia recurrence and other complications

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Most people who are diagnosed with a hernia will need surgery to successfully treat it. Fortunately, hernia repair surgery is common and usually successful, but it’s important to choose a surgeon who specializes in hernia repairs to help avoid recurrence and other complications.

Research shows that as many as 30% of patients will experience a second hernia after their initial hernia repair. But data shows that patients whose surgery is performed at a high-volume, nationally accredited institution that specializes in hernia repair, such as the Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), tend to have much better outcomes. That’s because surgeons at the Hernia Center of NGMC specialize in this type of surgery, and continually track and analyze cases to determine best practices. Our surgeons are highly experienced and have a complication rate that is significantly lower than the national average: <1% for inguinal hernias and approximately 8% for all ventral/incisional hernias. Additionally, less than 1% of patients need to return to the operating room or be readmitted to the hospital after surgery. Our team of surgeons is also experienced in hernia revision surgery for patients needing a repair after an unsuccessful initial hernia surgery.

What is a recurrent hernia?

When hernias come back at or near the site of a previous repair, they are called recurrent hernias. This can happen months or even years after an initial hernia repair surgery. If a hernia does return, your doctor will most likely recommend hernia revision surgery. If you think you have a recurrent hernia, it’s important that you seek medical attention from an experienced hernia specialist right away to discuss the best course of treatment.

What causes a hernia to come back?

Recurrent hernias can happen for a number of reasons, such as: 

  • Infection: Patients who had an infection that prevented the fascia, or connective tissue, from healing properly may need another surgery.
  • Fascial weakness: If the initial hernia repair was performed in a weak area of the fascia, hernia revision surgery might be necessary.
  • Failed repair: A hernia may return if the initial repair didn’t work or doesn’t last. This is why many hernia repairs use surgical mesh. In fact, the chances for hernia recurrence are decreased by as much as 50% when using surgical mesh.
  • Lifestyle factors and activities: Certain lifestyle factors and activities may strain or weaken the area of the initial hernia repair and increase chances that the hernia will return. For example, being overweight, smoking, having diabetes, taking certain medications that compromise the immune system and heavy lifting or other strenuous activities are factors that may contribute to recurrent hernias.

What are the symptoms of a recurrent hernia?

Many of the signs and symptoms of a recurrent hernia are similar to those of an initial hernia. A recurrent hernia may bulge at or near the site of the initial hernia and cause pain that ranges from a dull ache to severe pain. Pain may be more noticeable when engaging in certain activities or exercises such as lifting heavy objects, or even actions as small as coughing or sneezing. Recurrent hernias may also cause bloating or constipation.

How is a recurrent hernia diagnosed?

Like an initial hernia diagnosis, a doctor will review your symptoms and make a diagnosis based on a physical exam. He or she will also review your medical and surgical history. Depending on the type of hernia suspected, your doctor may order additional diagnostic tests such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.

Do recurrent hernias require surgery?

Unfortunately, a recurrent hernia cannot heal itself and will almost always require surgical treatment. If you suspect a hernia recurrence, your first plan of action should be to consult your doctor, even if your pain isn’t severe. If left untreated, recurrent hernias may cause serious complications, such as a bowel obstruction that may produce severe pain, nausea or constipation; or intestinal strangulation if the trapped section of the intestines does not get enough blood.

What non-surgical measures can I take to prevent recurrence?

There are some preventative measures that you can take to help reduce the chance of a hernia recurrence or other complications, including:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Use proper lifting and exercise techniques
  • Keep your abdominal wall strong and healthy by doing exercises to strengthen your core area

How do I choose the right surgeon for my hernia repair or revision?

Although there is always a risk that a hernia will return after it has been repaired, selecting an experienced hernia surgeon with a high level of technical skill will significantly reduce the risk of recurrence or other complications. NGMC’s hernia repair surgeons are experienced and highly skilled in open, laparoscopic and robotic hernia repair. Our surgeons also successfully treat patients who had initial hernia repair elsewhere but need revision surgery because their hernia has returned.

Nationally recognized by the Surgical Review Corporation as Center of Excellence for both Hernia Surgery and Robotic Surgery, our hernia repair and revision outcomes are higher than the national average, while our complication rates remain much lower.

Get Started Today

Our experienced surgeons have performed nearly 6,000 minimally invasive hernia repairs and more than 1,500 robotic hernia repairs using the da Vinci surgical system. Learn more about the Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center or call 770-282-8956 to speak to our care team about questions or to schedule an appointment.