It had been a few weeks since Anshul Khanna had joined the gym when he felt discomfort in his lower abdomen. When he instinctively put his hand on his abdomen, he thought he felt something poke out.
“At first I dismissed it as my muscles getting tired because I was working out too hard,” recalled Anshul.
He realised he might be wrong when a few days later the pain got worse while lifting weights.
Anshul was diagnosed with ventral hernia after he consulted with Dr. Amarchand S Bajaj, Senior Consultant, General Surgery at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital, Delhi.
“Many people, like Anshul, tend to ignore the bulge or swelling if it is small or can be pushed back. This is known as a reducible hernia,” said Dr. Bajaj.
“We wanted to help Anshul understand the importance of hernia repair.”
Here are some doubts Anshul had regarding his condition and diagnosis –
What does ventral hernia mean?
“A ventral hernia is a defect which occurs at a site where the muscles of the abdominal wall get weakened and the internal muscles like bowel loops and omentum (fatty content) push through.”
Depending on the site of the hernia, ventral hernia types are –
- Umbilical hernia – This is one of the most common types of hernia that appears at the navel or belly button area.
- Epigastric hernia – Such a hernia involves fatty tissue poking through your abdomen, anywhere from below the breastbone to the belly button.
Anshul’s ventral hernia was categorized as an epigastric hernia as it appeared below his ribcage.
It is not exactly known what causes epigastric hernias but some cases can occur due to increased tension in the abdominal area or raised intra-abdominal pressure.
“It is possible that Anshul’s hernia appeared because his gym routine was putting unnecessary pressure on a weakened site of his abdomen.”
It is important to keep in mind that not every person that goes to the gym will develop a ventral hernia.
You are more at risk of developing a ventral hernia with the following factors –
- Increase in abdominal pressure caused by chronic cough, chronic constipation, straining while urinating (for eg. in patients suffering from prostate problems)
- Frequently lifting or pushing heavy objects
- History of previous hernias
- History of abdominal surgeries
What are the symptoms of a ventral hernia?
You should keep an eye out for these signs of ventral hernia:
- Discomfort or severe pain in the abdomen
- Swelling or bulge that increases when coughing, straining due to constipation
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever, in some cases
In Anshul’s case, he experienced discomfort and swelling in the abdominal area.
After understanding the meaning of hernia, Anshul was keen on knowing the next steps.
“How do you fix a ventral hernia?” he asked. His immediate concern was on the treatment options for his condition.
Treatment of Ventral Hernia
“Hernia operation is the only option because your condition will need surgical repair before it worsens.”
“There is no non-surgical or medicinal treatment for hernia.”
Anshul, however, seemed unsure about getting surgery as he was scared.
He wanted to know if his condition would affect his day-to-day life if left untreated.
Is a ventral hernia life threatening?
“If you keep ignoring your symptoms, your hernia will be at greater risk of becoming irreducible and trapped. This may lead to an obstructed or strangulated hernia,” counselled Dr. Bajaj.
“Timely treatment for your condition should be done with ventral hernia surgery.”
There is no reason to worry as hernia operation is a minimally-invasive surgery (MIS) which uses smaller and fewer cuts.
“Keyhole or laparoscopic surgery is more specialized than open ventral hernia repair as it significantly reduces the size of cuts and incisions that need to be made.”
Laparoscopic repair involves the use of dual-mesh which prevents post-op adhesions of bowel.
“Nowadays, hernia repair usually includes medical mesh which covers the area of defect and the surrounding weakened tissue. The mesh is fixed to the intra-abdominal wall with the help of sutures or tackers.”
In the hands of experienced surgeons, laparoscopic ventral hernia repair with mesh reduces the chances of recurrence.
How long does it take to recover from ventral hernia surgery?
Minimally invasive or laparoscopic hernia repair promises a faster recovery time and shorter hospital stay.
As compared to an open surgery, post-op pain is also less after laparoscopic repair. Patients can resume daily activities within a couple of days as well.
Anshul understood that delaying his surgery could end up worsening his condition and causing further complications.
He chose to opt for laparoscopic surgery after Dr. Bajaj helped clarify his doubts.
After a successful surgery, Anshul was up on his feet on the same day after the surgery and was discharged the next day.
“I am glad I treated the hernia early and got my operation done. I was feeling better within a few days and my symptoms were also gone!” said Anshul at a follow-up consultation.
Learn more about Dr Amarchand S. Bajaj.