A hernia is a condition in which tissue or an organ, usually fatty tissue, but possibly even part of the intestine, protrudes through an opening of the abdominal wall. When it occurs in the part of the groin area known as the inguinal canal, it is called an inguinal hernia. The inguinal canal is the passageway between the abdomen and the reproductive organs. The abdominal wall in this area has an opening to allow blood vessels to reach the testicles. This opening may not close properly or completely after birth or may enlarge during life. There are other factors, however, that can occur later in life to make this area prone to a hernia, including chronic cough, chronic constipation, smoking, pregnancy, heavy lifting, and certain medical conditions.
Although some inguinal hernias do not manifest symptoms, others may involve pain and/or a heavy sensation in the groin area. The tissue that is protruding through the abdominal wall can create a visible bulge. This bulge may become more obvious when the person is bending over, coughing, or otherwise straining. In some cases, the hernia may become trapped in the opening of the abdominal wall "incarcerated Hernia". This can be extremely serious if blood flow to the tissues of the bowels is cut off and may become "Strangulated".
Surgery is often necessary to treat a hernia. During inguinal hernia surgery Dr. Heaton returns the protruding tissue or organ back into the abdominal cavity and repairs the hole in the abdominal wall. Fortunately, advanced technology has made it possible for us to treat hernias in a minimally invasive manner that he uses at times when indicated. Laparoscopic surgery may eliminate the need for the single incision associated with traditional open hernia surgery. However, will involve three small incisions. Laparoscopy is usually reserved for bilateral inguinal hernia repairs or recurrent (previous) open inguinal hernia repairs. During your consultation Dr. Heaton will determine if you are a candidate for this procedure or if your condition requires a more traditional open surgical approach.
Your surgeon will find the hernia and separate it from the tissues around it. Then your surgeon will remove the hernia sac or push the intestines back into your abdomen. Your surgeon will close your weakened abdominal muscles with stitches. Often a piece of mesh is also sewn into place to strengthen your abdominal wall. This repairs the weakness in the wall of your abdomen.
A laparoscopic hernia repair procedure uses a laparoscope with a camera that transmits images from your abdomen to a viewing screen to guide the surgeon in using the surgical instruments to make the repair. A harmless gas (carbon dioxide) is gently placed between the layers of your abdominal wall to separate layers and inflate it and provide enough room for Dr. Heaton to work. Three or four one quarter inch incisions are usually necessary for placement of the laparoscope and surgical instruments. The hernia is then repaired from behind the abdominal wall and includes the placement of a small piece of surgical mesh over the hernia defect which is then secured in place. This operation is usually performed with a short general anesthesia.