Hernia Surgery: What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

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.

The surgery itself is often done using a more minimally-invasive laparoscopic approach. After hernia surgery, you may need to spend one or more nights in the hospital for observation and to aid in initial recovery.

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Before the Surgery

It’s important to note that your doctor 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. Just before treatment, there are several important steps.

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.

Anesthesiology

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.

As you’ll be told, you should have avoided food or drink for at least six hours prior to surgery, and there may be certain medications or drugs you cannot take. In this step, your job is to be open, communicative, and honest; let the doctor 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 doctor accesses the hernia via an abdominal incision. But the more minimally-invasive laparoscopic approach has become more popular. Make sure to talk to your doctor about what specific approach they’re taking.

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

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

Laparoscopic Hernia Surgery

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

Incision

Typically performed while the patient is under general anesthesia (while they are put to sleep), 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 doctor 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. 

Repair

As noted above, the key for the surgeon is to find the abdominal muscular defect at the heart of the problem and to 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 doctor uses stitches or staples to repair the hernia.   

Suture/Stitching

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 clean 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.

Monitoring

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. As such, you may be advised to take five to 10 deep breaths, holding each in for three to five seconds, every hour. In addition, you may need to take blood-thinning medications and be advised to get upright and walk several times a day throughout recovery.

Going Home

Once the doctor 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 certainly 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 doctor if anything seems off.

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. Hernia surgery is 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 doctor as well as how well you understand what you must do on your end. It’s therefore essential that you find someone that 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 doctors and support staff, you’ll help ensure a complete recovery from a hernia. 

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Article Sources
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  4. University of Wisconsin Health. Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair. 2019.