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What is an Abdominal Hernia ?

In general, a hernia refers to a condition that arises when an organ pushes through a weak area in the muscles or tissue that surround and contain it.

An abdominal hernia occurs when there is a tear in the inner lining of the abdominal wall (the outer layer of muscle, fat and tissue that extends from the bottom of the ribs to the top of the thighs), causing a bulge in the abdominal wall where the organs protrude. The bulge can be either reducible, which means that by applying slight pressure to the area, you can feel the organs being pushed back into the abdominal cavity and the hernia will flatten and disappear, or non reducible, which means the fat or tissue cannot be pushed back into the abdomen and the hernia will not flatten. Whether a hernia is reducible depends on how far it protrudes through the abdominal wall and how tightly it is held by the abdominal muscles.

Hernias are repaired surgically with a simple surgical procedure. Without corrective surgery the condition may lead to a strangulation. This is where the organ or intestine that is protruding through the abdominal wall may have its blood supply cut and die if it becomes tightly trapped. Strangulation of an intestine causes extreme pain, can block digestion and may even cause gangrene in that area of intestine. In this case, emergency surgical repair is required.
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Types of Abdominal Hernias

The following are different types of abdominal hernia:

Inguinal Hernia

When a male's testicles descend into the scrotum, this causes a naturally weakened area in the wall of the abdomen, called the internal ring. This weakened area makes men more susceptible to a hernia at this location. An indirect inguinal hernia is the most common type of inguinal hernia. It occurs at the internal ring in the groin area. The intestine drops down into the internal ring and can extend down into the scrotum in men or to the outer folds of the vagina in women. An indirect inguinal hernia can be the result of an inherited weakness at the internal ring or one that occurs later in life. The latter is known as an acquired hernia.

Indirect Inguinal Hernia

Less common than an indirect inguinal hernia, a direct inguinal hernia occurs near the internal ring instead of within it. They are acquired hernias that usually occur after age 40 as a result of aging or injury.

Epigastric Hernia

This type of hernia occurs as a result of a weakness in the muscles of the upper-middle abdomen, above the navel. Men are about three times more likely to have an epigastric hernia than women, and the majority occur in people between 20 and 50 years of age.

Umbilical Hernia

Another natural area of weakness in the abdomen is the navel, which, like the internal ring, is made up of tissue that is thinner than that in the rest of the abdomen. These hernias can occur in babies, children and adults.

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Femoral Hernia

A femoral hernia occurs in the area between the abdomen and the thigh, and appears as a bulge on the upper thigh. This type of hernia is more common in women than men.

Incisional Hernia

A type of hernia called incisional can occur at the site of an incision from a previous surgery. The fat or tissue pushes through a weakness created by the surgical scar. An incisional hernia can occur months or years after the initial surgery.


  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Obstipation

Hernia Causes

Although abdominal hernias can be present at birth, others develop later in life. Some involve pathways formed during fetal development, existing openings in the abdominal cavity, or areas of abdominal-wall weakness.

  • Any condition that increases the pressure of the abdominal cavity may contribute to the formation or worsening of a hernia. Examples include:
    • Obesity,
    • Heavy lifting,
    • Coughing,
    • Straining during a bowel movement or urination,
    • Chronic lung disease, and
    • Fluid in the abdominal cavity.
  • A family history of hernias can make you more likely to develop a hernia.

How are Hernias Treated ?

Hernia repair surgery is an effective long lasting treatment for hernias. Successful surgery will end discomfort, repair the hernia, and stop the hernia from progressing.

The surgical procedure for hernia repair is a Laparoscopic procedure in which a fiber optic viewing tube and special instruments are used to repair the hernia without making a large incision. This procedure requires less recovery time than traditional hernia repair surgery. The surgery will result in three small incisions, one is usually located in the naval and one on each side of the tummy just above the waistline. The surgery will result in scars about 10 mm in length. These scars will fade in time.

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