“Don’t lift that; you’ll get a hernia!” Most people have heard comments such as this, but many don’t know exactly what a hernia is — until they have one, according to Lake Regional Health System.

A hernia is a condition in which an organ or tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall or other opening in the groin, femoral artery or diaphragm. Hernias can be very painful and may require surgery. In observation of Hernia Awareness Month, Lake Regional General Surgeon Justin Shatto shared five facts about hernias you might not know.

• They’re common. An estimated 5 million Americans suffer hernias, and more than half a million hernia surgeries are performed annually. The most common type of hernia is the inguinal hernia, which occurs when fat or part of the small intestine bulges through the lower abdominal muscles. Nearly 25 percent of males and 2 percent of females will experience an inguinal hernia.

• They can happen to anyone. “There’s a wide spectrum of patients who get hernias — young, elderly, athletic, overweight,” Shatto said in a news release. “They can affect anyone.” That includes babies. Hernias in male babies are common in the groin, when the opening from which the testicles descend doesn’t close properly. This type of hernia often self-corrects by age 4.

• They can be deadly. A small percentage of hernias obstruct blood flow to the organ that’s affected (often the small intestine). This condition, called “strangulation,” is life-threatening when untreated. Hernia patients experiencing sudden, worsening pain in the area of the hernia that does not go away; an inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas; or fever, nausea or vomiting need to seek immediate medical attention.

• Hernia surgery is evolving. Like many procedures, hernia surgery is now being performed laparoscopically, through three to four small incisions rather than one large open incision. Recovery times are much shorter, pain is less, and patients typically go home the same day. But, that’s not all that’s changed.

Hernia surgery now can involve placing mesh at the hernia site to keep tissues in place. “A new mesh recently came out that we’re using in high-risk hernia repairs,” Dr. Shatto said. “It’s impregnated with antibiotics to potentially reduce the risk of infection.”

• You really can get them from heavy lifting. Not all hernias can be prevented, but some can. Lift with your legs rather than your back, do not strain when having a bowel movement, maintain a healthy weight, and do not smoke.

Lake Regional’s board-certified general surgeons offer the latest techniques for hernia repair. Other common surgical procedures at Lake Regional Hospital include anti-reflux procedures; appendectomy; breast procedures, including mastectomy; colon resection; gallbladder removal; hemorrhoidectomy; liver and biliary tract surgery; and advanced wound healing. Learn more at lakeregional.com/services.

Lake Regional surgeon shares facts during hernia awareness month
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