The Anatomy of Hernia

The Different Types

The most common location for hernia is the abdomen.

The abdominal wall, a sheet of tough muscle and tendon that runs down from the ribs to the legs at the groins, acts as the body’s corset. Its function, amongst other things, is to hold in the abdominal contents, principally the intestines.

Positions of hernias in the body

If a weakness should open up in that wall, then the corset effect is lost and what pushes against it from the inside (the intestines) simply pushes through the opening. The ensuing bulge, which is often quite visible against the skin, is the hernia.

The word Hernia means ‘something coming through’.

These windows of weakness commonly occur where there are natural weaknesses in our abdominal wall.

Examples of these are the canals (inguinal and femoral) which allow passage of vessels down to the scrotum and the legs, respectively. The umbilical area (navel) is another area of natural weakness frequently prone to hernia. Another area of potential weakness can be the sites of any previous abdominal surgery, the incisional hernia.

The more you know and understand about hernia, the better your chances of  getting the best repair.

A word about PAIN

Most hernias do not hurt. Paradoxically, the larger ones often hurt less, the reason being that a large ‘window’ in the abdominal wall that allows the intestine to slide in and out easily is not usually the cause of pain. Pain tends to occur when something is getting ‘squeezed’. That is often (although not exclusively) associated with smaller hernias.

It is a shame, in a way, that the larger hernias tend not to hurt because that often leads the patient to think it is not urgent or important. It is!

Pain is a very serious warning indeed. The hernias that DO hurt are also the ones more likely to strangulate (more on strangulated hernias later) which is as bad news as it could be.

One more fact is that the hernias that are left until they hurt tend to cause the longest post-operative pain.

A useful ‘Golden Rule’ is that once you are aware of the symptoms and a hernia has been diagnosed, it is in your interests to have it fixed as soon as possible and as well as possible,

Next – The most common types of hernia: