All about Femoral Hernias

Femoral hernias can be particularly dangerous and surgery is often required using hernia mesh. Hernia mesh, however, can cause injuries if defective, and when that happens, you have the right to file a lawsuit to recover compensatory damages.

Femoral hernias occur at or slightly below the crease between the lower groin and the upper thigh. Although they are one of the more uncommon types of hernias, they can be particularly dangerous. Often, there are few signs or symptoms before it becomes a problem. Almost half of them are discovered only when they become medical emergencies. 1

These hernias require rapid diagnosis and technical skill to repair in order to avoid permanent damage. Our personal injury attorneys help to provide you with the information you need to make an appropriate decision about your health.

Hernia surgery
Femoral hernias can be particularly dangerous and surgery is often required using hernia mesh.

1. How do femoral hernias occur?

Only 2-3% of all hernias are femoral. 2 Between the abdomen and the groin, there is a tight and rigid passage called the “femoral canal.” When tissue from inside the abdomen is pushed through this canal, a hernia can develop. They can be caused or made more likely by various factors such as

  • Obesity
  • Constipation and straining to have a bowel movement
  • Heavy lifting
  • Childbirth
  • Respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heavy coughing
  • Peritoneal dialysis
  • Any other activity that significantly increases pressure in the abdominal cavity.

Femoral hernias occur up to ten times more frequently in women than in men due to the difference in the shape of their pelvis. The femoral canal in women is usually larger and therefore more prone to this type of hernia.

2. What are the signs and symptoms?

Often, it can present few to no signs or symptoms before they become medical emergencies. In certain cases, you may

  • Experience a dull ache in the crease between your groin and upper thigh
  • Notice hip pain (the femoral canal is near your hip)
  • See a small swell or bulge along this crease or at the top of your thigh
  • Feel a tender, rigid lump in this area.

3. What are the dangers associated with this type of hernia?

Because the femoral canal is a relatively tight and rigid structure in the body, tissue from the abdomen can often get stuck within it. When this happens, the hernia can become a(n)

  1. Incarcerated: the hernia cannot be massaged or pushed back into the abdominal cavity. It is trapped in the “out” position
  2. Obstructed: the intestine is caught in the hernia, causing an obstruction of the intestine. This condition can cause pain and will usually get worse over time as the area becomes inflamed. You may experience vomiting if your femoral hernia is obstructed.
  3. Strangulated: the tissue within the hernia loses its blood supply, and the intestine or bowel can become compromised. In severe cases, the bowel may become necrotic (die) unless the hernia is surgically treated in a timely manner.

Although all hernias can become strangulated, femoral hernias carry a higher risk of this condition. When this occurs, you may experience

  • Sudden and extreme, worsening pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Tenderness and bulging in the lower groin area
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 or visit an emergency room immediately.

4. How are femoral hernias diagnosed?

Your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam in order to feel for the hernia. Imaging technology may additionally be used in the diagnosis if no bulge is easily detected, or to confirm a diagnosis. These include a

  • CAT scan (computerized axial tomography)
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • Ultrasound.

These hernias may be misdiagnosed as inguinal hernias (which are less serious). Therefore, it is important to seek medical care from experienced specialists in order to avoid complications.

5. How are femoral hernias treated?

These hernias are usually treated with surgery. If the hernia is fairly small and causing no symptoms of pain or discomfort, a physician may choose to wait and see if it becomes a problem for the patient. However, in most cases, if a femoral hernia is discovered, surgery is advised.

Surgery for femoral hernias is usually done under general anesthetic. There are multiple surgical approaches, depending on the angle and placement of the hernia and the health history of the patient. 3

  1. Open surgery requires an incision above the hernia. The physician closes the sac around the hernia and replaces the tissue into the correct position in the abdomen. Then, they can choose to use either sutures (stitches) to narrow the gap in the femoral canal, or they can insert a hernia mesh plug. Mesh plugs are often used in femoral hernia repairs because the canal is rigid and difficult to suture effectively.
  2. Laparoscopic surgery is performed using four incisions around the hernia. Surgical instruments are inserted under the skin and a fiber optic cable is used to light the area, and sutures or mesh may be used. Recovery time for laparoscopic surgery is usually shorter.

6. What are the risks of surgery?

Like all surgeries, hernia repair carries the risk of

  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Internal injury to other structures.

Specific complications from this surgery include

In addition, femoral hernia surgery is still developing as doctors create and discover new ways of treating this comparatively rare type of hernia. 4 While new techniques may offer surgical alternatives with faster recovery time and fewer complications, doctors should be aware of the risks associated with this developing technology.

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7. When should you seek advice from a medical malpractice attorney?

Since femoral hernias are not as common as other types, surgeons may not be as familiar with their complexities. In addition, if hernia mesh was used in your surgical repair, you may have been exposed to dangerous or defective medical products. Complications arising from such devices can be painful and traumatic.

In order to discuss your options and have your case evaluated, including filing a hernia mesh lawsuit, contact a personal injury attorney with experience in medical malpractice.

References

  1. The British Hernia Centre. Femoral Hernia.
  2. University of California, San Francisco Gastrointestinal Surgery. Femoral (Thigh) Hernia. 2018
  3. University of Washington Health Library. Repair of Inguinal and Femoral Hernias. 2018
  4. Kulacoglu, Hakan. Mini-mesh repair for femoral hernia. International Journal of Surgery Case Reports. 2014; 5(9): 574–576.

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