Written by Dr. Robert Ripley, General Surgeon                                                     

Hernias are enlarged natural openings in the body or separations of muscle that allow underlying tissue to protrude through them.  An example of a natural opening hernia is the hiatal hernia that allows a portion of the stomach to protrude into the chest cavity.  Most hernias occur across the abdominal wall between the rib cage and the hips.

Causes of hernias are weaknesses in muscle present since birth, separation of muscle due to a previous incision, being overweight, pregnancy, chronic cough, or chronic straining.  The most common hernia is the inguinal hernia, and it is an example of a weakness in the muscle since birth.  It is most common in men and usually presents as a lump or protrusion in either the left or right groin areas.  The protrusions are usually associated with a dull ache or increased pain with heavy lifting.  Other common hernias are umbilical, incisional, hiatal, and femoral. A hiatal hernia occurs in the diaphragm muscle and allows a portion of the stomach to herniate into the chest. Most of these are asymptomatic, meaning a person does not experience any common symptoms.

If left untreated a hernia will gradually increase in size allowing internal organs such as the small or large intestines to protrude through the hernia and become more painful.  Sometimes the muscle will trap the bowel within it. This is called an incarcerated hernia. Sometimes an incarcerated hernia could lead to a strangulated hernia where the blood supply to the bowel is cut off causing the bowel to become gangrenous. When this happens, an emergency operation is necessary to repair the hernia and remove the gangrenous bowel.

In most cases a hernia repair is an outpatient procedure.  So, there is no need to spend the night in the hospital.  The most common way to repair a hernia is with mesh.  The mesh is a thin sheet of synthetic material fitted to overlap the hernia.  Over the next 3 months the mesh becomes incorporated in the surrounding tissue making a strong repair and a decreased likelihood of the hernia recurring.

Hernias cannot fix themselves, so surgery is necessary to treat symptomatic ones. In some cases, depending on your age, work status, lack of symptoms and other health problems, hernias can be safely watched.

If you have any questions or concerns and would like to make a clinic appointment to see our general surgeon, Dr. Robert Ripley, please contact KCH Specialty Group at 435-644-4115. You can also follow our hospital Facebook page at Kane County Hospital or follow the clinic Instagram page by searching kchspecialtygroup.

We currently have three surgeons available in our clinic. Dr. Daniel Wright, Podiatrist, Dr. Robert Ripley, General Surgeon, and Dr. Michael Hewitt, Sports Medicine Orthopedics. Dr. Wright is with us full-time, Monday through Wednesday. Dr. Hewitt and Dr. Ripley are available in the clinic every other week, opposite weeks on one another. We look forward to hearing from and seeing you for any concerns you may have.