Questions to Ask Before Hernia Surgery

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

It’s natural to have questions before a surgical procedure, regardless of the type of surgery you’re facing. Being a well-informed patient will not only help you prepare for surgery, but you’ll feel more at ease with the procedure and the recovery that follows.

When facing hernia repair surgery, there are important questions you should consider so that you’re getting the best and most effective treatment possible from an experienced surgeon and medical team.

What are the different types of surgical repairs for hernias?

Surgeons often use minimally invasive techniques for hernia repair surgery repair hernias, but in some cases, open surgery may be necessary. For most of the patients we treat at the Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), we can repair their hernias using minimally invasive methods, such as robotic hernia repair or laparoscopic hernia repair, that allow for an easier and quicker recovery

How do you determine which type of hernia repair I need?

Your doctor should conduct a thorough exam and review of your medical history to determine which surgical repair is right for you. For example, the most appropriate candidates for robotic hernia repair surgery are those with groin, incisional, umbilical or hiatal hernias. However, a patient’s medical history may also indicate if a person is not a good candidate for robotic surgery. That’s why it’s important for your doctor to develop a treatment plan specific to your individual case.

What are the benefits of robotic hernia repair?

The benefits of robotic hernia repair and laparoscopic hernia repair surgery are similar when compared to open surgery and generally include:

  • Smaller incision size
  • Less blood loss
  • Lower infection rate
  • Shorter procedure times
  • Smaller scars
  • Quicker return to daily activities and work
  • Less post-surgical pain (in many patients)

Additionally, there may be benefits of robotic hernia repair even compared to laparoscopic surgery, including:

  • Better dexterity to reach previously inaccessible areas of the body
  • Improved range of motion; the robot’s arms can rotate 540 degrees and are much more flexible than the human hand or wrist.
  • High-definition, magnified 3D images allow for improved visibility and accuracy.

Will my hernia repair require a mesh or non-mesh surgery?

The use of mesh in ventral, incisional and inguinal hernia repair is the standard of care in the United States.

At the Hernia Center of NGMC, our surgeons will evaluate each patient individually to determine the most appropriate treatment plan. Our surgeons use mesh for most hernia repairs at NGMC, as surgical mesh has proven to strengthen the area around the hernia, which in turn helps reduce the rate of recurrence. Research has consistently shown a lower recurrence rate using mesh versus repair without mesh, and the chances of hernia recurrence are decreased by as much as 50% when using mesh. Additionally, the use of mesh can also improve overall patient outcomes. In fact, our surgeons at the Hernia Center of NGMC have seen decreased operative time and quicker recovery times when using mesh in hernia repair.

What are the potential complications of hernia surgery?

Hernia repair surgery is usually successful, but as with any surgery, there are risks of potential complications. These risks are higher if you are having emergency hernia repair surgery. Other factors that increase your risk for complications include:

  • Older age
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Hernia revision surgery for a recurrent hernia

Selecting an experienced hernia surgeon with a high level of technical skill will significantly reduce the risk of complications like recurrence, infection or bleeding. Patients who have hernia repair surgery at a high-volume, nationally accredited institution like the Hernia Center of NGMC have much better outcomes. Our surgeons produce very low complication rates, with very few patients developing a recurring hernia and less than 1% of patients needing to return to the operating room or be readmitted to the hospital.

How long will I have to stay in the hospital?

If you have laparoscopic or robotic hernia surgery, you will likely go home on the procedure day. You will need someone to drive you home because of the effects of the anesthesia. Some open surgeries may require a longer stay.

How long is recovery?

It’s common to experience mild to moderate pain, as well as feeling a little run down after hernia repair surgery. It’s also normal to feel pulling or twinges in the affected area as you heal. Recovery time will vary based on several factors, including the type of hernia, type of surgery, age, overall health and the experience level of your hernia surgeon.

The recovery period for patients who undergo robotic hernia repair surgery is approximately 2 weeks. This is compared to 4 to 6 weeks with open hernia surgery and 3 to 4 weeks with laparoscopic hernia repair surgery.

The Hernia Center of NGMC equips patients with detailed recovery instructions so that patients can safely get back to doing the activities they enjoy with less chance of complications. Most of our patients feel better within a few days and much better within a week of surgery.

Will I have to take prescription pain medication?

Your doctor will likely prescribe you pain medication to address soreness and discomfort while your incision site heals. As with any prescription, you should take pain medication exactly as prescribed and, if you no longer need it, dispose of it as instructed. At the Hernia Center of NGMC, most patients are off pain medications within a few days after surgery.

What is the chance for hernia recurrence?

Patients who have hernia repair surgery at a specialized institution like the Hernia Center at NGMC tend to have much better outcomes with lower chances for hernia recurrence. As many as 30% of patients nationwide experience a second hernia after an initial hernia repair, but surgeons at the Hernia Center of NGMC 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.

There are also 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 decide which surgeon to see for my hernia repair?

You can minimize the risks of surgery by choosing a surgeon and medical care team that are thoroughly trained and experienced in hernia repairs. When considering surgeons, ask about their experience with the procedure, including the number of times they’ve performed it, and their record of successes, as well as complications.

NGMC’s hernia repair surgeons are experienced and highly skilled in open, laparoscopic and robotic hernia repair. They will evaluate your case to determine which option is best for you. The Hernia Center of NGMC has have been recognized nationally by the Surgical Review Corporation as a Center of Excellence for both Hernia Surgery and Robotic Surgery. This means you can trust that our hernia surgeons have the highest level of technical skill and provide quality care.

Where is the surgery performed?

Most hernia repair surgeries are outpatient procedures. For patients receiving hernia surgery at the Hernia Center of NGMC, the procedure will either take place at our NGMC Gainesville campus or the Northeast Georgia Surgery Center located in Gainesville.

Do I need a referral for hernia repair?

While many insurance companies do not require a referral to see a general surgeon for hernia repair, some insurance companies do. If you are unsure if you need a referral, please contact us. Our pre-registration teams will collect your insurance information and obtain the appropriate referral for you.

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.