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Minimally-Invasive Hernia Repair

What is minimally-invasive hernia repair?
Why would a doctor recommend minimally-invasive hernia repair?
What does minimally-invasive hernia repair involve?
How long is the recovery after minimally-invasive hernia repair?

What is minimally-invasive hernia repair?

In minimally-invasive hernia repair, a surgeon uses a laparoscope—a thin tube with a tiny video camera at its tip—and small tools to fix a hernia. During all kinds of laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon is guided by images projected on a television monitor.

In many cases, patients recover more quickly from minimally-invasive hernia repair than they do from open hernia repair. The technique leaves only small scars, and may cause less pain than open hernia repair.

Why would a doctor recommend minimally-invasive hernia repair?

A doctor may recommend surgery to repair a hernia that has become painful. An untreated hernia may result in complications such as strangulation, where part of the intestine is unable to work as it should.

Although many hernias are repaired using open surgery, minimally-invasive hernia repair may be appropriate in some cases. A doctor may recommend minimally-invasive hernia repair because:

  • It may cause less pain than an open hernia repair
  • It may allow the patient to return to work and a normal lifestyle more quickly
  • It allows easier repair of double (bilateral) inguinal hernias, where a patient has a hernia on either side of his or her abdomen. The surgeon can repair both hernias using the same three small incisions as for a single hernia repair.
  • It can reduce the chances of a ventral hernia re-occurring, and reduce possible complications

Some patients may not qualify for minimally-invasive hernia repair. A doctor may recommend open hernia repair when:

  • There has been a previous infection at the site of the hernia
  • A patient is obese
  • A patient has significant scar tissue from previous abdominal surgery
  • The surgeon has trouble seeing the patient's internal organs with the laparoscope (a thin tube with a video camera at its tip)
  • A patient has bleeding problems during the operation

What does minimally-invasive hernia repair involve?

Most inguinal hernia operations are performed on an outpatient basis, which means that you will return home the same day of your surgery. You will not be alert enough to drive on your own after your surgery, so make sure a family member or friend can take you home.

Patients having a ventral hernia repaired may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

You will be given medication by IV, or through a mask, to make you lose consciousness. You will not feel any pain during the surgery, and will not remember the surgery afterward.

Once you are asleep, the surgeon uses carbon dioxide gas to create a space between the wall of your abdomen and the organs inside. Next, he or she makes three small incisions in the skin of your abdomen. The surgeon then passes narrow tubes through these incisions in your abdominal wall. The laparoscope and other instruments will be moved through these tubes during the operation.

The sensor in the tip of the laparoscope allows the surgeon to see images from inside your abdomen on a television monitor. Using tiny tools, the surgeon pushes the hernia back into place with a small piece of surgical mesh, then fastens the mesh in place with surgical staples or sutures. This mesh will help prevent future hernias in the same location.

Once the repair is completed, the surgeon removes the instruments, the laparoscope, and the tubes from your incisions.

How long is the recovery after minimally-invasive hernia repair?

You will need some time in the recovery room for the effects of the medication to wear off. In some cases, a patient may need to stay in the hospital overnight, especially for a ventral hernia repair.

Your return to normal activities will depend on the severity and type of the hernia you had repaired. In general, recovery from a ventral hernia repair takes longer than recovery from an inguinal hernia repair. Before you are discharged from the hospital, your doctor will give you specific instructions about showering, driving, walking up stairs, having sex, lifting, and returning to work.

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