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Hernia Surgery - What to Expect

Days prior to your hernia surgery, you may have blood tests, a urinalysis and other studies to help your doctor evaluate your general health. 

Hernia repair surgery is often done on an outpatient basis, which means that you can go home the same day as your surgery. Depending on the type of hernia and the treatment option selected, hospitalization of one to three days may be required.

Make plans to have someone drive you home once the procedure is complete and, if possible, have someone stay with you. It could take a day or two before you can resume some of your normal activities.

Risks and complications

Hernia repair is generally a very safe procedure that causes a minimal complications. However, as with any surgery, there are some possible complications:

  • Infection and/or bleeding are possible
  • The risk of complications increases if the patient smokes, does drugs, is a heavy drinker or is very young or old
  • A slight chance exists that the intestines, bladder, blood vessels or nerves may be injured during the procedure, or that scar tissue may form
  • Seroma formation
  • Recurrence of the hernia
  • Pain

Laparoscopic surgery can be performed for hernia repair. Patients may be at greater risk if they:

  • Smoke
  • Have a history of blood clots in large blood vessels
  • Take large doses of aspirin or blood thinners
  • Have severe urinary problems

Your surgeon will review the risks and complications of any procedure with you.

Recovering from surgery

Immediately following your surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room. In most cases, patients are able to return home soon after surgery. Before sending you home, our staff will ask you to show that you're well enough to eat, drink, urinate and walk around. It is recommended that patients arrange to have some help at home, at least for a few days.

Also, before leaving our facility, you will receive information for the following:

  • Phone number to call in case you experience problems later
  • A follow-up appointment so that your recovery can be monitored
  • When you should remove the bandage if your incision is covered

Driving is generally not recommended for 48 hours following surgery due to the effects of the anesthesia still being present in your body. Driving may also put a strain on the incision site, so your doctor may ask that you wait a while to drive.

During the first few days, you may notice some swelling or discoloration around the incision site, which is normal. It is also normal for the incision site to be bruised, tender or numb. You may need to be careful while bathing or showering so as not to wet the incision.

It is also important to prevent constipation, which can put a strain on your incision. It is helpful to eat foods that are high in fiber and drink plenty of fluids, such as water and fruit juice.

When to call our office

If you experience any of the following problems when you return home after surgery, call your doctor:

  • Fever
  • Excessive swelling
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Redness
  • Bleeding
  • Pain that gets worse

Expectations after surgery

Once you're back at home, try to ease into your normal daily activities slowly. The amount of pain and/or discomfort you experience depends on the location of the hernia, the type of repair, and your personal pain tolerance level. Generally, walking is difficult for the first few hours after surgery, and climbing stairs may be difficult for a day or two. You should be able to drive your car within a few days following the surgery.

How soon you can return to work will depend on the kind of work you do. If you have a very strenuous job or one that requires heavy lifting, it may be several weeks before you can get back to work. You may be back at a desk job, on the other hand, in as little as three days. Be sure to discuss when to return to work and resume your normal daily activities with our physician.

Moderate exercise, such as walking, is recommended, and helps to improve your circulation and speed the healing process. However, patients should avoid putting a strain on their bodies—as with lifting and strenuous exercise—for six to eight weeks after the surgery. Lifting especially should be avoided, as this may disrupt the hernia repair. However, if it is absolutely necessary, lift only manageable objects, and use your legs to carry the weight – not your back. Ask your surgeon to advise you as to when you can resume heavy lifting, jogging or doing strenuous exercise. Patients who play sports may not be able to play for several weeks, as an impact to the repair could disrupt it.

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