Hernia Surgery: Long-Term Care

Hernia surgery corrects cases where organs poke through abdominal muscles

Hernia surgery corrects a condition in which internal organs or tissues protrude through abdominal muscles. Performed either as an open procedure or a more minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, this operation is successful, with hernia returning in between an estimated 1% and 10% of cases.

Critical to success is the period of recovery as well as long-term care. As with all aspects of medical treatments you’re considering or may need, it’s important to gain a full sense of what the benefits of hernia surgery are, as well as what to keep in mind in the period after treatment. There are lifestyle changes that can reduce your risks of needing further surgery.

Verywell / Laura Porter

Benefits of Surgery

It’s important to understand what hernia surgery can do and why it should be considered. What are the benefits of this treatment? Here’s a quick breakdown.

  • Effective treatment: In hernia cases that are not symptomatic, healthcare providers may adopt a “wait and see” approach, or recommend wearing specialized straps to provide support. Still, most case almost always develop into problematic issues within one to two years. As such, hernia surgery ends up being the only way to fully and effectively correct the issue, and, as noted above, it has a high success rate.
  • Preventing medical emergency: Untreated hernia, even with management and observation, can develop into more dangerous and painful conditions. For instance, one particular complication, called “strangulation”—in which the protruding section of intestines becomes cut off from blood supply—requires immediate medical attention. While not all hernias are medical emergencies, conditions like this certainly are.   
  • Well-tolerated: As with any surgery, there are some risks associated with this treatment; for instance, it’s absolutely essential that you contact your healthcare provider if, after surgery, you feel excessive pain, heat, redness, and swelling in the incision site or experience breathing difficulties, blood clots, or other issues. That said, such complications are rare, and, overall, hernia surgery is well-tolerated by a majority of patients.
  • Quality of life: Among the benefits of this procedure is that, in a majority of cases, patients report dramatic improvements in their quality of life. According to one study, quality of life in both male and female patients significantly improved as soon as three months after surgery.

Possible Future Surgeries

As noted above, some hernia surgeries don’t end up permanently solving the problem, and additional care will be necessary. Notably, the use of surgical mesh—which is increasing in popularity—to support weakened abdominal muscles and keep everything in place has significantly reduced the need for additional surgery.

That said, especially within the first two to three years after surgery, there is an increased risk of something going wrong at the site. Should the treatment fail, additional surgery will be needed.

Lifestyle Adjustments

As you recover from hernia surgery, certain lifestyle changes will be recommended to ensure the best possible outcome; certainly, your healthcare provider will let you know what you need to do to ensure healthy and safe healing in the immediate aftermath of treatment. Over the longer term, you may also need to make some changes. These include the following.

  • Avoid lifting: As the surgical incisions are healing—up to six months or more after treatment—you’ll be told to avoid lifting objects over 10 to 15 pounds. Even after that, you should make sure you’re getting your practitioner’s OK before engaging in strenuous lifting activities, since these can put pressure on the hernia site.
  • Quit smoking: Among the myriad benefits associated with quitting tobacco smoking, doing so helps promote positive blood flow and aids in healing. In fact, smokers are more likely to experience post-surgical complications than others, and they have a higher risk of infection. Therefore, it makes sense to stop the habit. If this is something you struggle with, talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do.
  • Activity: While you should avoid strenuous exercise or contact sports until you’re cleared to do so after surgery, lighter exercise and activity is essential to proper healing. Even something as simple as ensuring that you are walking a little every day can help (though, again, be sure you are following your practitioner’s guidelines). This prevents the formation of blood clots in the shorter term and promotes better overall health for the site over the long term. 
  • Drink water: Especially in the earlier postoperative period, it’s a good idea to drink an appropriate amount of water. Why? This helps ease digestion and prevents excessive “pushing” when you are defecating. Straining too hard in this way can affect the hernia repair and should be avoided.
  • Eat high-fiber foods: Ensuring that you are getting enough fiber will promote better digestion and prevent the kind of straining outlined above. Alongside supplements, high-fiber foods such as greens, lentils, apples, raspberries, carrots, broccoli, and other fruits, grains, and vegetables can really help.
  • Watch your weight: Obesity or being overweight can impede the progress of recovery or help bring about a relapse of the problem. As such, losing weight may also be an important step you can take to help ensure good outcomes. Here, too, you may want to seek your healthcare provider’s advice or seek out other kinds of support, since weight loss can be quite challenging. 

A Word From Verywell

Ultimately, as challenging as the prospect of hernia surgery can be, living with pain and discomfort is worse. Nowadays, health professionals are better than they’ve ever been at taking on this issue; outcomes today are even better than they were a decade, two decades, or more ago.

Recovery and rehabilitation are, of course, important elements of the process, so make sure to listen carefully to your practitioner and communicate if anything seems off. Alongside your family and friends, know that your healthcare provider and medical team are on your side. Long-term recovery from any surgery is a team effort—and you, too, are part of that team. 

5 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. University of Wisconsin Health. Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair.

  2. American College of Surgeons. Groin hernia repair: inguinal and femoral.

  3. The John Hopkins University, Comprehensive Hernia Center. Recovery after hernia surgery.

  4. Langbach O, Bukholm I, Benth J, Røkke O. Long term recurrence, pain and patient satisfaction after ventral hernia mesh repairWorld J Gastrointest Surg. 2015;7(12):384. doi:10.4240/wjgs.v7.i12.384

  5. Vuille-dit-Bille RN, Fink L, Leu S, Soll C, Villiger P, Staerkle RF. Long-term quality of life and chronic pain after inguinal hernia repair in women. Clin Surg. 2018; 3: 2007.

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