Hernia FAQs

What is a hernia?

A hernia is a protrusion of fat or intestine through an abnormal opening in the abdominal wall. It may be brought on or aggravated by heavy lifting and often disappears on lying down.

Are hernias dangerous?

The majority are not. Many are either asymptomatic or just cause intermittent discomfort or pain. However, the contents of some hernias may become stuck in the hernial opening. This is usually very painful and if left without treatment may result in damage to the intestine termed strangulation. This requires emergency surgery to remedy it.

How are hernias treated?

Symptomatic or troublesome hernias require surgery to repair the abnormal weakness in the abdominal wall. The type of repair will depend upon the position and size of the hernia.

Are there different types of hernias?

There are numerous types of hernias but the most common are those affecting the abdominal wall.

  • Groin hernia: Inguinal or femoral hernias present as swellings in either or both groins.
  • Paraumbilical hernia: These hernias are common and present as a swelling at the belly button.
  • Epigastric hernia: Less common, these hernias present as small swellings in the midline, between the ribs and the belly button.
  • Incisional hernia: These hernias sometimes appear under the scar from a previous operation.
  • Hiatus hernia: This is very common but instead of the hernia protruding through the abdominal wall, part of the stomach pushes upward from the abdomen through the diaphragm (breathing muscle) into the chest. These hernias may be associated with heartburn symptoms.