Diagnosed with an inguinal hernia during a routine checkup, I had laparoscopic surgery to repair the hernia. These are my recovery tips.
What to Do When You Have a Hernia
I was shocked when, during my annual exam, the doctor indicated that I had a groin (inguinal) hernia. I was in disbelief as I thought the area he indicated was useless body mass. It had been there for some time and never bothered me. So, he referred me to a surgeon, who confirmed it.
People with any type of hernia have two options:
- Do nothing (watchful waiting): Some people leave it alone and can live with it for years. This option is chosen only when there are no complications and with a surgeon's recommendation. The main fear is that the bulging loop of the intestine may become pinched, or strangulated, which makes the condition more severe, more dangerous, and more expensive to treat. So if you choose not to have surgery, the doctor or surgeon will monitor the hernia to make sure no complications occur. If you wait until the hernia really starts to hurt, that is too late. Should this occur, the surgeon usually will have to remove part of the trapped intestines.
- Have surgery: Surgery is the only way to really fix a hernia, although the cost can make people think twice. The cost is usually about $4,000 to 6,000 without insurance. It's best if you have insurance paying all or at least 80% of the charge.
Types of Hernia Surgery
Surgeons fix hernias with either traditional open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. In both methods, the hernia is repaired by reinforcing the weakened area of muscle. Reinforcement can be done in two different ways. The surgeon may stitch the hole closed (herniorrhaphy, or tissue repair) or stitch a mesh over the hole (hernioplasty, or mesh repair).
In this method, the surgeon makes a large incision over the affected area, places the protruding tissue back in place, and reinforces weak area of muscle the tissue was protruding through.
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Minimally Invasive Surgery
There are two ways of performing minimally invasive surgery: laparoscopic and robot-assisted. In both methods, a few small incisions are made in order to insert a small camera (laparoscope) and long, thin surgical tools. The surgeon views the inside via a magnified image on a monitor.
If available at your hospital, the surgeon may also use robotic assistance, such as the da Vinci surgical system. The machine is said to be very precise and steady. The surgeon does not directly perform the surgery. Rather, the surgeon uses a console to direct the robot to do the surgery. The doctor views the surgery via a monitor with great magnification and manipulates the robot arms.
With a minimally invasive surgery, the patient recovers quite fast as compared to the open surgery method.
Tips for Recovery From an Inguinal Hernia
Having gone through the surgery and recovery myself, these are some things I learned based on my experience and my doctor's advice.
- Before you leave the hospital, you must be able to urinate a good amount. If you are unable to do so, tell the nurse. The pain may be moderate, and it will come in spurts, so it may take time.
- The doctor may prescribe you hydrocodone 325 mg or something similar.
- You will be instructed not to lift more than 1-3 lbs for four weeks. By week six, you will be 75% healed.
- Exercise is fine, but no lifting for a month. That means you are limited to activities like walking, elliptical, treadmill, hiking, and maybe biking. Forget about abdominal exercises or weight lifting.
- When you get home, the first priority is being able to urinate in a steady stream. You must get this by the first day after surgery. You need to drink lots of water. You also should apply ice packs on your groin to help heal the bruised canals to the penis due to catheter use during the surgery. Urinate frequently even if it is painful or only comes in spurts because doing so opens up the canals each time. For me, it took at least six hours of this repeated process until a steady stream arrived.
- Your first meal after surgery should be a light meal. I suggest some type of soup. The medication you take for pain may make you constipated—just something to keep in mind as you take it. Some patients remain constipated for days, which can be quite painful. Drink lots of water. Also, walk around. This helps facilitate urination and bowel movements.
- Pain on the day of surgery will be about a 5 on a scale of 1-10. For me, it was not that bad. The pain was mostly in the groin area where the hernia was. The more active you are and the more consistently you apply ice packs, the less pain you will have on the day after surgery. Your abdominal muscles may hurt when you bend over or turn, but not so much when walking.
- Sleeping is pretty much restricted to laying on your back. I suggest using ice packs then or when watching TV.
With robotic surgery, you may be back to full functionality after 3-5 days; you may even be able to return to work. Just remember that you CAN NOT lift anything for a month!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.