The Stitch

Hernia recurrence: Why does it happen and how to prevent it

A hernia is a gap in the abdominal wall that allows the contents of the abdomen, such as fat or intestines, to squeeze through. Most hernias aren’t immediately life threatening but can be painful and require surgery.

A hernia recurrence (when the hernia comes back or breaks through another weakened area in your abdominal wall) is possible among patients who have undergone hernia surgery. Studies have shown that up to 30% of hernia repairs can result in a recurrence.

“Hernias recurring can be frustrating for patients who have gone through the discomfort of a hernia and the surgery required to repair it,” says Heather West, physician assistant and patient navigator at Baylor Medicine Hernia Center. “Unfortunately, tissues around a hernia are never as strong as they were before the hernia was present. But there are strategies that can help to prevent hernia recurrence.”

One of the most important things patients can do to decrease their recurrence risk is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, says West. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese puts extra pressure on the abdomen and increasing the risk of a hernia recurring after surgery. Patients may even be encouraged to lose weight before surgery to help reduce this risk.

West also recommends patients regularly follow up with their primary or family doctor after surgery. During follow-up appointments, the doctor can check for signs of recurrence and make recommendations for further treatment or lifestyle changes if needed. Patients should also report any new or unusual symptoms to their doctor as soon as possible, as these could be signs of a hernia recurrence.

There are also surgical strategies that can help to reduce the risk of hernia recurrence. One such strategy is the use of a mesh material to strengthen hernia repair.

“Studies have shown that using a mesh implant can significantly reduce the risk of hernia recurrence compared to traditional surgery techniques,” West says. “The surgeon will decide if mesh will be used based on the size of the hernia and previous surgeries you may have had.”

Surgeons at the Baylor Medicine Hernia Center specialize in a variety of hernias, including recurrent hernias. To enhance patient care, the Center utilizes telemedicine, which not only reduces the time between diagnosis and treatment, but also offers patient education and support at every stage of the process.

By Tiffany Harston, communications associate with the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery

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