Hernia Surgery: What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

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Hernia surgery repairs a condition in which internal organs or tissues protrude through abdominal muscles—usually in the lower abdomen or near the groin. On the day of your treatment, you’ll need first to undergo final health evaluations and work with the anesthesiologist to be placed on either localized or general anesthesia.

Most hernia surgeries in America (about 70% for inguinal hernias) are performed as open surgery. Laparoscopic hernia repair is an option depending on the expertise of the surgeon. After inguinal and small ventral (umbilical, epigastric, etc.) hernia surgeries, patients will go home the same day. Sometimes, however, you may need to spend one or more nights in the hospital for observation and to aid in initial recovery after hernia surgery.

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Before the Surgery

It’s important to note that your healthcare provider will make sure to provide exact instructions for what to expect prior to hernia surgery, including information about what the day of the procedure will be like and what sorts of foods and drinks you need to avoid before the operation.

Initial Consultation

While the medical team will have already fully assessed your medical history—including any medications or substances you’re taking—you’ll have an initial consultation to see if there have been any changes or issues that have cropped up.

It’s always a good idea to bring along a list of what pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical drugs you’re taking, as well as any immediate concerns or questions you may have.


Depending on the specific type of hernia surgery you’re having, the next step will be consultation with the anesthesiologist. These experts need to assess the form of anesthesia that would work best for your case and figure out carefully calibrated dosages to ensure a pain-free experience that’s also safe.

Different hospitals have various instructions with not eating and drinking before surgery. Some surgeons and anesthesiologists will allow you to drink clear liquids up to two hours before surgery. There may also be certain medications or drugs you cannot take. You'll be given pre-operative instructions well in advance of your procedure, but if you have any questions, be sure to clarify with your surgeon. In this step, your job is to be open, communicative, and honest; let the healthcare provider know if you have any concerns or preferences or have made any significant new lifestyle changes.

Following this, you’ll be taken into the operating room for work to begin in earnest.

During the Surgery

There are several types of hernia surgery, and these differing approaches are determined based on the scale and scope of the hernia, available expertise, and approach, as well as other factors.

Currently, there are two predominant types: open and laparoscopic hernia surgery, both of which may or may not use a device called surgical mesh. This surgical mesh, which has been in use since the 1980s, is used to support and strengthen failing abdominal muscle walls, and it’s become a standard in practice.

Some cases—especially those that are smaller—are done with open surgery, in which the healthcare provider accesses the hernia via an abdominal incision. But the minimally invasive laparoscopic approach has become more popular. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about what specific approach they’re taking.

While an open hernia surgery tends to take about an hour, laparoscopic work may take up to two hours.

The treatment is performed by general surgeons with surgical training, assisted by a dedicated support staff of nurses, and, if needed, an anesthesiologist.  

Laparoscopic Hernia Surgery

Here’s a quick breakdown of a laparoscopic hernia repair surgery.


Typically performed while the patient is under general anesthesia, one of the major advantages of laparoscopic hernia surgery is that it requires smaller incisions.

This method involves the use of a special device that is essentially a small camera at the end of an adjustable tube. It can access the area via a small incision, usually around the navel (belly button). This camera transmits video of the inside of the body, allowing the healthcare provider to see the hernia.

A couple of other small incisions are made to allow the surgeon to access the area using specialized tools. In addition, the area is inflated using carbon dioxide gas to allow easier access to organs and structures. 


As noted above, the key for the surgeon is to find the abdominal muscular defect at the heart of the problem and repair it. If surgical mesh is used, this is placed around the weakened muscles after the internal organs or tissues are physically pushed back into position. In other cases, the healthcare provider uses stitches or staples to repair the hernia.   


After the hernia is repaired, the small incisions are carefully closed up using sutures or stitching. Naturally, during this time, the medical team takes extra care to prevent infection and ensure the area is properly cleaned and hygienic. After you’re closed up, you’ll be taken to a recovery room.

After the Surgery

What happens immediately following surgery? There are several important steps before you leave the hospital, including monitoring and preventing blood clots.


Typically, patients are taken to the recovery room immediately after the surgery is completed. Essential here is that your oxygen levels, heart rate, blood pressure, and urine production and output will be carefully monitored.

Preventing Blood Clots

As you recover, one of the biggest risks is that blood clots form. All patients are instructed to walk at least 500 feet per day to prevent blood clots in the legs. A small percentage of patients with risk factors may need to take blood-thinning medications.

You may also be advised to take five to 10 deep breaths, holding each in for three to five seconds, every hour. This deep breathing exercise does not prevent blood clots, but prevents the collapse of alveoli (gas-exchanging components) in the lungs and the development of pneumonia.

Going Home

Once the healthcare provider is sure that the surgery has been successful, that the anesthesia has largely worn off, and that there’s little risk of infection or other side effects, you’ll be cleared to go home.

Most hernia surgeries are outpatient procedures, meaning that you’ll be able to go home the same day. That said, it’s essential that you have someone else drive, and you should wait at least two days before operating motor vehicles.

Once out of the hospital, keep an eye on how you’re feeling and don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

While the prospect of abdominal surgery can be intimidating and even frightening, it’s important to remember that hernia surgery is a routine, highly successful procedure. It's one of the most common surgery types in the U.S., with an estimated 1 million such treatments performed a year.

However, good outcomes here rely on more than just finding the right medical team; much depends on how well you’re able to communicate with your healthcare provider, as well as how well you understand what you must do on your end. It’s therefore essential that you find someone you’re comfortable with, and that you do everything you can to follow their instructions.

If there is anything at all that you’re confused about, don’t hesitate to ask. Good health is a partnership, and, together with your healthcare providers and support staff, you’ll help ensure your complete recovery from a hernia. 

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Surgeons. Groin hernia repair: Inguinal and femoral. 2018. 

  2. University of California San Francisco. Inguinal hernia. 2020.

  3. University of Wisconsin Health. Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair. 2019. 

By Mark Gurarie
Mark Gurarie is a freelance writer, editor, and adjunct lecturer of writing composition at George Washington University.