Undergoing any type of surgery carries a small risk of complications. There are a variety of things that can occur when you go under the knife. If you have had abdominal surgery, one complication you might experience is the development of an incisional hernia.
Here, we’ll look at what incisional hernias are, the symptoms to watch out for, and whether they are harmful to your health.
What are incisional hernias?
Incisional hernias can occur after abdominal surgery. Part of the surrounding organs or abdominal tissue pushes through the weakened abdominal wall. This causes a visible lump to appear. They tend to develop around the incision site, and they may not present for up to a year following the surgery.
Most of the time, this type of hernia isn’t serious. This means treatment isn’t always required. However, this will depend upon the size of the hernia and its severity. It is also worth noting that incisional hernias are more common in patients who had vertical incisions. The risk of developing an incisional hernia after surgery varies from 1-33% and may be related to specific patient factors and factors related to the surgical approach.
Symptoms to watch out for
If you have undergone abdominal surgery, the key things to look out for that may point to an incisional hernia include:
- Discomfort or sharp pain when lifting or straining
- A lump or small bulge located near the incision site
- Gurgling, burning, or aching sensations
If you have these symptoms and you have had abdominal surgery in the last year, it could point to an incisional hernia.
When might an incisional hernia be harmful?
The majority of incisional hernias aren’t dangerous. However, if they aren’t treated, they do have the potential to grow larger and become a real problem.
Larger hernias can lead to trouble with movement or breathing. They can also cause obstruction, or become strangulated, leading to a potentially life-threatening situation. For this reason, it is always recommended that incisional hernias are assessed when they are identified, and need surgery or observation. The smaller they are, the easier they are to treat too.
Who is most at risk of an incisional hernia?
Incisional hernias can occur in any patient who undergoes abdominal surgery. However, there are some factors that are known to increase the risk.
If you attempt to strenuously lift something shortly after the surgery, or exercise vigorously, this greatly increases the risk of a hernia. Pregnancy and weight gain are also known to increase the risk, alongside smoking, Diabetes, wound infection and older age.
It is important to understand the risks and be cautious when recovering from abdominal surgery. If a hernia does develop, getting it treated will ensure you don’t have anything to worry about further down the line.
For more advice, call us on 020 3770 5864 to arrange an appointment at the HCA Lister Hospital Clinics (Chelsea Outpatient Centre and Chiswick Medical Centre) or call 020 7808 2785 to book a consultation with Mr Myles Smith at the Royal Marsden Hospital.