Hernia Surgery: How To Prepare

Hernia surgery corrects hernia, a common abdominal muscular defect

In This Article

Hernia surgery takes on an abdominal defect in which tissues or organs push through muscles, which can lead to a visible bulge, usually around the scrotum or groin, as well as pain and discomfort in some cases. It's also called hernia repair. There are three primary approaches to this treatment—open, laparoscopic, and robotic hernia surgery.

As with any surgery, proper preparation for the procedure is essential to its success. This process includes evaluation of medical history, testing, as well as steps you need to take and arrangements you need to make prior to treatment. Integral to this process is communication with medical staff; before or after surgery, you need to let your doctor if you have any issues or concerns.

explaining the operation
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Location

Primarily, hernia surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you will most likely not need to spend the night in the hospital. Prior to surgery, you’ll be placed into a preop room, where you consult with the anesthesiologist to discuss your options.

The procedure itself typically occurs within specialized operating rooms, and, regardless of whether you’ve had general anesthesia (in which you’re put to sleep) or localized anesthesia, you’ll need to spend some time monitored in a separate recovery room. In some cases, additional screening will be necessary, so you’ll need to overnight there or even plan for two nights in the hospital.

What can you expect in a surgery operating room? Though there’s some variation, here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll likely find:

  • Operating table: Usually placed in the center of the room, this specialized table can be adjusted and angled as necessary.
  • Operating room lamps: Lighting is of course very important in surgery, so there will be several specialized lamps in the room.
  • Monitors: Depending on the specific type of hernia surgery employed, different monitors will be used to track heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure.
  • Video screen: Real-time imaging may be used for laparoscopic and robotic arm surgeries as these employ specialized devices to provide video of the affected area, while it’s being worked on. As such, a video screen may be set up.
  • Ventilator: Especially if general anesthesia is employed, a ventilator will be used to help you breathe. This machine pushes oxygen in and out of the lungs.
  • Anesthesia equipment: In cases where general anesthesia is used, you will be hooked up to specialized equipment that delivers the drug in proper, controlled amounts.
  • Surgical tools: Naturally, the surgeon will also have on hand a tray of sterile equipment needed to conduct the treatment.

What to Wear

As your doctor will tell you, some care needs to be taken when deciding what to wear on the day of surgery. Typically, there are several guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Loose-fitting clothes: This will allow more comfort after the operation, easing any pressure on the site of treatment. An additional change of clothes is not necessary.
  • Slip-on shoes: It’s advised that you wear shoes that are easy to take on and off, which will prove easier to manage after the surgery. If you need to bend over to get them on, choose another pair.
  • Avoid jewelry: Jewelry and valuables should be left at home or with a trusted friend or family member.

Prior to surgery, you’ll get a full consultation on what to expect on the day of surgery.

Food and Drink

As with most surgeries, preparation for hernia surgery will involve restrictions in terms of diet. Most often, the following will be advised:

  • No liquids: To ensure a safe treatment, you’ll be asked to abstain from drinking coffee, water, or any other fluids for six hours prior to treatment.
  • Food restrictions: As with fluids, food within the digestive system can also lead to complications or problems during surgery. This being the case, you’ll also be asked to avoid eating anything for at least the six hours before going in for surgery. Most often, the treatment is scheduled in the morning, so doctors will ask you to refrain from food after midnight the night before treatment.

Make sure to listen carefully during initial visits as the doctor will certainly have detailed instructions for you to follow.

Medications

One of the most important steps prior to hernia surgery is a complete assessment of your health history as well as a full-accounting of prescription and non-prescription medications you’re taking. It’s absolutely critical that they get the full picture, so it’s a good idea to bring a list of what you’re using to both initial assessments as well as the day of surgery itself.

If there are certain pills you take regularly, be sure to clear with your doctor if they can be consumed with a sip of water in the window prior to surgery. In addition, some drugs may be prescribed to be taken beforehand to aid in the success of the surgery.

Notably, many prescription and non-prescription drugs should be avoided for up to a week before the appointment because of their effect on bleeding, including:

  • Aspirin
  • Advil, Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve, Naprosyn (naproxen)
  • Plavix (clopidogrel)
  • Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Other blood thinning-drugs

Here, too, the key is that you are open and honest with your doctor; the more they know about your health status, the better the outcome will be. 

What to Bring

Beyond what you should wear and what you can eat and drink, some other preparations are necessary prior to surgery. What should you keep in mind? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Bring your insurance card and information.
  • Have a list of medications you’re taking ready.
  • Let the anesthesiologist know if you suffer from any allergies, epilepsy, stroke, heart disease, stomach problems, endocrine issues, as well as loose teeth.
  • Bring a family member or friend to drive you home; you shouldn’t operate motor vehicles immediately after this treatment.
  • Bathe beforehand, making sure to clean your abdomen with a mild antibacterial soap.
  • If you are pregnant, be sure to let your doctor know.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Alongside following doctor’s orders and abstaining from certain medications prior to surgery, quitting smoking is essential in improving outcomes and helping the incision cite heal properly. This is, of course, not easy, but the benefits of doing so are manifold and go well beyond just ensuring successful treatment.

In your consultations and evaluations with your doctor, make sure to inform them if you are a smoker; they can also direct you towards resources that can help you quit.

A Word From Verywell

While the prospect of hernia surgery can be daunting, it’s important to remember that this procedure is very common and highly successful. Mortality is very, very rare—less than one percent of patients die due to complications—and only one to 10% of patients may have a subsequent hernia. In addition, contemporary approaches to this treatment have made it even more tolerable and effective.

Throughout the process—as you get ready to go in for the operation and after—be sure to be open and communicative with your doctor and the medical team. If anything feels awry or you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to let them know. Together, you and your doctor will be able to set you on the path to better health and better quality-of-life.

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Article Sources
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  1. American College of Surgeons. Groin hernia repair: Inguinal and femoral. 2018. 

  2. Harvard Health. Hernia repair. 2018.

  3. University of Rochester Medical Center. Preparing for surgery: the operating room. Published 2020. 

  4. WakeMed Health & Hospitals. Hernia repair: What to expect. 2020.