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Inguinal Hernia: Surgery in Adults

Topic Overview

Adults need to have inguinal hernia repair surgery in the following situations.

  • Hernias that contain a loop of intestine without blood supply (strangulated hernias) require emergency surgery.
  • Hernias that contain a trapped loop of intestine (incarcerated hernias) need to be repaired as soon as possible to avoid strangulation. Surgery may be scheduled when it is convenient if strangulation does not appear likely.
  • In healthy adults, hernias that can be pushed back into the abdomen and are not causing discomfort or pain can be repaired when it is convenient. In some cases small, painless hernias may never need to be repaired.

The following people may not be able to have hernia surgery or may choose not to have surgery.

  • People with chronic illnesses may decide against surgery if hernias are not incarcerated or strangulated. It usually is appropriate to repair a hernia. But a balance of length of life, how much the hernia is bothering you, and your wishes will be taken into account.
  • People with cirrhosis often have fluid in the abdomen (ascites) that increases abdominal pressure and causes the hernia to recur after it is repaired. Some surgeons advise people with cirrhosis not to have hernia surgery.
  • Men who have extreme difficulty urinating because of an enlarged prostate should have the prostate problem fixed before having hernia repair surgery.
  • People who have had radiation treatments to the groin area may have poor healing and a higher risk of the hernia coming back.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Kenneth Bark, MD - Surgery, Colon and Rectal
Last Revised November 15, 2012

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