Ventral hernias, like more common forms of hernias, occur when soft tissues push through an opening or weakness in a muscle wall. Ventral hernias can occur in any area of the abdominal wall, but they often go by another name – incisional hernias. That’s because ventral hernias occur at the site of previous abdominal surgeries.
There are a number of factors that predispose someone to develop a ventral hernia. Aside from having a previous abdominal surgery, risk factors for developing ventral hernias include:
- Have a history of previous hernias
- Previous injuries to your bowel area
- Family history of hernias
- Frequent lifting or pushing of heavy objects
- Certain congenital birth defects
Ventral hernias are caused by weaknesses in the abdominal muscle wall from a previous surgery or injury. In fact, up to 30 percent of individuals who have undergone abdominal surgery will experience an incisional hernia later in life. As the scar tissue from the previous surgery weakens or thins, a bulge will form in the abdominal wall, and eventually it may break through, causing a hernia.
Symptoms of Ventral Hernias
Symptoms of ventral hernias vary from patient to patient, and while some might experience symptoms right away, others may remain asymptomatic for months. Common symptoms of incisional hernias include:
- Localized pain
- Pain that intensifies with movement or bending
- Visible bulging in the area
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get to Dr. Koeplin’s office sooner rather than later.
Ventral hernias can be easily diagnosed with the assistance of a physical exam, a discussion about symptoms and imaging exams to look for the presence of a break in the abdominal muscle wall. They’ll also look for signs of strangulation, because if blood flow is cut off to the abdominal cavity, serious problems can occur.
Regardless of whether you have a strangulated or standard ventral hernia, surgery will be the course of treatment. Strangulated hernias will require immediate surgery, while standard incisional hernias can be scheduled further out depending on symptoms and the patient’s schedule. The sooner a hernia is treated, the less damage it can cause, and the better healing will be, so don’t put off surgery too long.
There are a few different operations available to treat ventral hernias:
- Mesh Placement – The tissue is pushed back in place and a mesh reinforcement is put in place to reduce risk of recurrence.
- Laparoscopic Repair – Using minimally invasive techniques, the surgeon pushes the tissue back in place and either uses mesh or sews the tissue to prevent it from coming back.
- Open Repair – Using a large incision to fully visualize the site, the surgeon will push the tissue back in place and either use mesh or sew the opening to preventing it from returning.
All of these operations have high rates of success with little or no complications on average. You may need to have some physical limitations for a few weeks after surgery, but most people are back to work or physical activities within 4-6 weeks after the operation. For more information about hernia care, reach out to Dr. Koeplin’s office today.