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Hernia FAQ

A hernia is an opening anywhere in the body where there is a cavity; hernias are most commonly in the abdominal cavity where abdominal contents like fat or intestine can move into the opening.
The most common hernias are inguinal and umbilical hernias.
An inguinal hernia is an opening in the inguinal area, which is in the groin. It can present like a bulge or fullness in the groin, or just pain in groin or down to the testicle (in males).
An umbilical hernia as an opening under the belly button. A bulge can occur in the form of an "outie" belly button which, technically, is a hernia.
Other hernias can develop in the diaphragm (hiatal hernia), the pelvis (obturator hernia), below the groin crease (femoral hernia), in the midline between the rectus muscles (ventral hernia), and other various places in the abdominal cavity.
Hernias develop where there is a weak spot in the abdominal wall. Natural weak spots are the inguinal area, as this is where there is an opening for structures in both males and females, and the umbilicus, as this is where the umbilical cord entered the body.
Usually lifting heavy items, and creating significant intra-abdominal pressure, is one of the factors causing hernia formation.
Increases in intra-abdominal pressure, as above, in combination with genetics and body habitus are the common causes.
Weight is a factor in hernia formation, as the greater the weight, the more intra-abdominal pressure which translates force to the abdominal wall.
Not all hernias have to be fixed. Usually, parameters regarding the hernia itself, whether or not bowel is involved, the patient's health, and other factors are all part of a decision process.
Surgical repair is required. Currently, open and laparoscopic methods are used. Mesh is often used. The method of repair is based on hernia location, size of hernia defect, body type, and other factors.
Open refers to the approach used. It is the original method before the advent of surgery with scopes (known as laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery). Open surgery requires an incision.
The type of hernia, patient preference, status of the patient's health, and surgeon experience all comprise the answer. Currently, regarding inguinal hernia, the literature leans toward laparoscopic repair.
Hernia repairs do not always require mesh, but recurrence rates without mesh in many settings are higher. Mesh does have drawbacks however, and pre-operative discussion with the surgeon is important.