Understanding hernias, surgery options and what recovery is like

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Moves in Medicine: Hernia awareness, treatment and recovery
Understanding hernias, when it's time for surgery and what recovery is like

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Nearly everyone knows someone who's had experience with a hernia injury.

However, many people don't really understand them, or the best ways to treat them.

"I was leaning into a container to get the mail out because I worked for the Post Office. And in doing so, I felt this little pull or snap," says Bob Pomager of Bridesburg.

Pomager vividly recalls the moment in February he got a hernia.

Dr. Elizabeth Renza-Stingone, a bariatric surgeon at Temple Health, says hernias are a hole or weak spot in the abdominal wall.

"That you could either be born with or you develop over time through strain," Dr. Renza-Stingone says.

Inguinal hernias - the most common type - are five times more prevalent among men than women, due to anatomy.

The discomfort comes when abdominal tissue - such as the intestine - pushes through that hole.

It can be painful to cough, bend over, or lift a heavy object.

Many people try to live with them because hernias don't heal on their own.

But Dr. Renza says if the pain increases, or even suddenly accelerates:

"That's a sign that something is incarcerated, meaning it's stuck. And it could even be strangulated, meaning that it's blood supply is compromised," she notes.

Surgery is the only real fix for hernias.

"I try to handle the surgery in a minimally invasive fashion, so laparoscopically, and then there's also robotic approaches," she says.

Doctors usually close the hole with mesh, which acts as a scaffold for new tissue to grow over.

The mesh can be either a permanent or dissolvable type.

Most patients go home the same day and can recover in four to six weeks.

The pandemic delayed Pomager's surgery, but it's now done, and he feels great.

"I can't tell you how relieved I was to get that hernia taken care of," he says.

Dr. Renza says you can prevent hernias by avoiding excessive weight gain, not smoking cigarettes, and using proper lifting techniques.