Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernia. They make up about 70 percent of all hernias. These hernias occur when the intestines push through a weak spot or tear in the lower abdominal wall, often in the inguinal canal.
The inguinal canal is found in your groin. In men, it is the area where the spermatic cord passes from the abdomen to the scrotum. This cord holds up the testicles. In women, the inguinal canal contains a ligament that helps hold the uterus in place.
This type of hernia is more common in men than in women. This is because a man’s testicles descend through the inguinal canal shortly after birth, and the canal is supposed to close almost completely behind them. Sometimes, the canal does not close properly and leaves a weakened area prone to hernias.
If you have an inguinal hernia, you might be able to see a bulge where your thigh and your groin meet. In guys, the protruding piece of intestine may enter the scrotum, which can cause swelling and pain. Other symptoms of an inguinal hernia might include pain when you cough, lift something heavy, or bend over.
How is an inguinal hernia treated?
The only way to fix an inguinal hernia is with surgery. In patients with significant medical problems whose hernia is not painful, is not getting larger, and is not trapped, the patient may choose to wait to have surgery. If you choose to wait, we will watch your hernia to make sure it does not get worse or become trapped. There are benefits and risks with both waiting and surgery. We will discuss both options with you.
If you decide to have surgery to fix your inguinal hernia, there are two ways to do the surgery: open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. In general, the laparoscopic approach is advantageous in patients who have had a previous repair and have developed a recurrent hernia. This technique allows approach to the hernia without going through the previous scar tissue related to the previous surgery. It is also beneficial in patients with bilateral (both sides) inguinal hernias.
In an open surgery, the surgeon makes a cut in your groin and moves your intestine, other organs, or belly fat back into your belly. The surgeon then closes up the weak spot in your groin muscles with stitches. Usually the surgeon will cover the weak spot with a small piece of mesh before stitching it closed to provide extra support.
In laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon uses a tool called a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a thin tube with a tiny camera that the surgeon puts through small cuts in your belly along with other small tools to do the surgery. The laparoscope lets the surgeon see inside your body and fix the hernia without having to make a big cut. After moving your intestine, other organs, or belly fat back into your belly, the surgeon will cover the weak spot with a small piece of mesh to make it stronger.