What is a Hernia?

What is a hernia?

Hernias are most commonly recognized as a bulge that pops out of your abdomen or groin, but what exactly are they?


How do you get a hernia?

Hernias are a protrusion of a cavity’s contents outside of the cavity that they normally reside in.

One way that hernias form is from increased pressure within the abdomen, which pushes through a natural weakness in the abdominal wall muscles and forms a bulge outside the abdominal compartment. This type of hernia usually presents later in life and is often associated with obesity and heavy lifting.

Another way hernias form is embryologically due the failure of a natural hole to close. Both pathways result in a bulge, where the contents of the abdomen show up as a painful mass that pops out every time a patient does anything to increase the pressure in their belly. These types of hernias have been present since birth.

Hernias are often associated with other medical problems, anything that makes you strain or cough frequently has the potential to give you a hernia. Hernia’s in women often occur during a pregnancy.

There are also a couple less common types of hernias that can protrude through openings in your pelvis or your back.

The active process where body parts herniate through a defect is called a herniation. Hernias form through a weakness or defect in the muscular or fibrous layers that normally keep the contents inside the cavity.


How do you treat a hernia?

Unfortunately, hernias don’t resolve on their own and the mechanical process of a hernia means that unless the defect is repaired, hernias don’t go away and they tend to get larger.

Hernias can be dangerous because of a couple complications that are associated with them. Normally hernias will go back inside the defect that they come through. This is called “reducing” a hernia. A hernia that can be easily reduced, or reduces on its own when you lay down, is unlikely to cause a problem, but when a hernia is unable to be reduced it is referred to as incarcerated.

An incarcerated hernia is a problem because it is stuck outside the cavity it belongs in. Say that a segment of your intestine is incarcerated; this means that its blood supply and its supply of oxygen has to travel all the way across the compartment that it originated from, then through a tight opening in order to get to its target destination, your intestine. This makes that loop of intestine very easy to cut off from its blood supply, and once that happens, swelling and increased pressure from ischemia cut off the blood supply even further and strangle that intestine. Unsurprisingly, this process is called, “strangulation.”

But neither of these outcomes need to occur. Hernias are one of the oldest surgical problems in history and surgeons have been describing and fixing them for as long as there has been written history. The primary challenge to fixing a hernia is how to close the hernia defect without tension. Anything that pulls the edges of the defect apart will also pull through the sutures that are placed to close the hernia.

Multiple innovative techniques have been described to address the problem of reducing tension on a hernia closure, and the best hernia surgeons tailor each repair to each individual patient, using all the techniques at their disposal.


Suffering from a hernia?

For more information about NYC Surgical’s hernia treatment options, please contact us at 877-221-3955.