This decision aid is not for parents of infants and children who have inguinal hernias. Infants and children always need surgery to repair a hernia because of the increased risk of incarceration and strangulation.
An inguinal hernia (say "IN-gwuh-nul HER-nee-uh") occurs when tissue pushes through a weak spot in your groin muscle. This causes a bulge in the groin, scrotum, or labia. The bulge may hurt or burn, or it may not hurt at all.
Many doctors recommend surgery because it can prevent a rare but serious problem called strangulation. This occurs when a loop of intestine or a piece of fatty tissue is trapped in a hernia and the blood supply is cut off, which kills the tissue.
Repairing the hernia can also relieve the symptoms of pain and discomfort and make the bulge go away. The hernia won't heal on its own.
If your hernia does not bother you, most likely you can wait to have surgery. Your hernia may get worse, but it may not. Over time, hernias tend to get bigger as the muscle wall of the belly gets weaker and more tissue bulges through.
In some cases small, painless hernias never need repair.
There are two types of hernia repair surgeries:
It can take up to 4 weeks after open hernia surgery before you can begin normal strenuous activities. If you have laparoscopic surgery, you may recover sooner.
You and your doctor may want to put off surgery if:
It may also be a good idea to put off surgery if:
Talk with your doctor before wearing a corset or truss for a hernia. These devices are not recommended for treating hernias and sometimes can do more harm than good. There may be certain cases when your doctor thinks a truss would work, but these are rare.
|Have surgery now||Wait and see|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I work on a loading dock and often have to lift heavy boxes for my job. One day I noticed a tender bulge in my groin that became more and more painful on the job. My doctor said I had an inguinal hernia. I decided to have surgery to repair it, because I just couldn't work anymore with the hernia."
— Boyce, age 45
"My inguinal hernia does not bother me much. So I could live with it. But it makes a big bulge, and I don't like the way it looks. So I decided to have surgery to have it repaired and make the bulge go away."
— Seaton, age 42
"Over the last few years I had gotten overweight. So I went on a crash diet to lose the extra weight fast. Afterward I got a cold and coughed a lot. Later I noticed a small bulge in my groin area that hadn't been there before. My doctor said it was an inguinal hernia and showed me how to push it back into my belly. Although I could have surgery to repair it, I decided to wait to see if it gets worse."
— LaMar, age 57
"I have a hernia and I am pregnant. It bothers me some, but I have decided to wait until after my baby is born to have the hernia repaired. I just think there is too great a chance of harm to my baby from the anesthesia and surgery to have the hernia repaired before delivery."
— Brie, age 31
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to have surgery now
Reasons to wait
My hernia is keeping me from doing daily activities or from returning to work.
My hernia doesn't bother me at all.
I want to have the hernia repaired while my insurance or worker's compensation will help cover the costs.
I am worried about being able to afford the operation.
I will be traveling to an area where health care may not be available, so I want to take care of this now.
I have no plans to travel to places where health care may not be available.
Surgery would be convenient for me at this time.
This is not a good time for me to have surgery.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Having surgery now
Waiting to have surgery
1. One reason for me to have surgery for my inguinal hernia is to prevent a rare but serious problem called strangulation.
2. I need surgery even though my hernia is small and doesn't bother me.
3. I can wait for my hernia to go away on its own.
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Kenneth Bark, MD - Surgery, Colon and Rectal|