Do Hernias Always Need to Be Fixed?

The short answer from a general surgeon
Hernia presenting in the stomach from the intestines breaching the muscular wall

Q: Do hernias always need to be repaired?

A: Not necessarily. But if you (or your doctor) discover you have a hernia, it’s a good idea to go see a surgeon about it.

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A hernia is essentially a hole in your abdominal wall that allows something (intestine or fat) to stick out that doesn’t normally stick out.

Most people describe either feeling a bulge or something ‘sticking out’ that doesn’t belong. Some have even creatively described it as an ‘alien baby’!

Not everyone who has a hernia has symptoms. And not every hernia requires repair. Some small hernias don’t need treatment if they’re not bothering you.

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One of the common questions patients have is “What would happen if I don’t get it fixed?”

The biggest fear is that a loop of intestine or some fat may end up getting stuck in the opening. Then, the worst complication would be that the loop of intestine could lose its blood supply ― a catastrophic complication that’s called strangulation.

There’s a lot of fear-inducing information online about strangulation. Yet the reality is that if you can easily push whatever is sticking out back in (and there’s no pain), then it’s OK to simply schedule an elective surgery to fix it whenever your life’s schedule permits.

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Don’t put it off too long, though, if surgery’s recommended. Early repair avoids abdominal wall damage, and a bigger, riskier operation in the long run.

The best option? Have it evaluated and find out what’s right for you.

― General surgeon Ajita Prabhu, MD

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