All About Ventral Hernias

Ventral hernia repair surgery is often conducted with the use of mesh implants, but these implants can cause injuries. If you have suffered an injury from a mesh implant, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensatory damages.

Here, we discuss what a ventral hernia is. We also answer some of the more common questions associated with ventral hernia repair and subsequent injuries associated with the same.

Mesh surgery tools
Ventral hernia repair surgery is often conducted with the use of mesh implants, but these implants can cause injuries.

1. What is a ventral hernia?

A ventral hernia is an umbrella term for the three kinds of hernias that appear along the midline of the abdominal wall. These three hernias are

  1. Epigastric, occurring between the belly button at the chest.
  2. Umbilical, occurring around the belly button.
  3. Incisional, occurring at the site of a previous surgery in the abdomen.

Ventral hernias can appear in both men and women and must usually be treated with surgery, as they will not go away on their own. According to some estimates, up to one-fourth of the population will develop a ventral hernia at some point in their lives. 1 In the United States, between 350,000 and 500,000 ventral hernia repair surgeries are performed each year. 2 Because of their frequency, technology around this surgery is constantly changing. Continue reading to learn about ventral hernias, their symptoms, and the risks associated with surgery and surgical repair mesh.

2. Why do ventral hernias occur?

Hernias occur due to a weakness in the abdominal muscle. Intestines, usually held inside the abdominal cavity by the muscle, can push through the weakness and cause a bulge in the stomach.

3. What are some common causes of ventral hernias?

Ventral hernias can be caused by a variety of events and conditions. Sometimes, these hernias are present at birth but only become a problem for the patient as they age. Other times, the condition develops during adulthood. Factors that may increase an individual's chance of experiencing a ventral hernia include

  • Obesity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Age
  • Persistent coughing (due to emphysema or chronic bronchitis, for example)
  • Heavy straining or lifting for work or exercise
  • Injury
  • Weakness of intercellular connective tissue
  • Abdominal surgery.

Incisional hernias, a type of ventral hernia that develops after a previous abdominal surgery, are more likely if the patient smokes after the operation. Larger incisions also increase the risk of ventral hernias.

4. What does this kind of hernia look and feel like?

The pain associated with a ventral hernia can vary widely, depending on the severity of the case. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize the signs of a ventral hernia before it becomes a medical condition, even if the pain is minimal. You may want to seek medical treatment for a possible hernia if you notice a lump in your stomach that bulges and recedes. Pain or discomfort may increase when you

  • Cough
  • Lift objects
  • Strain during bowel movements or urination
  • Sit or stand in one position for a long time
  • Exercise
  • Sit up from a prone position.

In addition to the bulge in your stomach, more severe conditions associated with ventral hernias can include

  • Redness or bruising around the area
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Extreme pain or discomfort.

These symptoms may indicate that the hernia has become incarcerated or strangulated. In these conditions, the hernia cannot recede back into the body and blood may not be able to reach a section of the intestine. Incarcerated or strangulated hernias can cause permanent organ damage if not treated immediately. If you suspect a ventral hernia of any kind, it is always best to seek the advice of a medical professional.

5. What treatment options are available?

Almost all hernias in the United States are treated with surgery, as hernias will not resolve on their own without intervention. For mild hernias that cause no pain, doctors may not advise immediate action, but most often surgery is suggested.

In some cases, a hernia truss may be implemented to ease discomfort before a procedure is performed. Trusses are specific belts that apply targeted pressure to give temporary relief and prevent hernias from bulging out, but they are not usually a permanent solution. 3

6. How is surgery for ventral hernias performed?

The object of surgical repair is to close the hole or weakness in the abdominal muscle permanently. If surgery for your ventral hernia is recommended, there are multiple options for the procedure depending on factors like

  • Age
  • Placement and size of hernia
  • Medical history
  • Shape and contours of abdominal wall and weakness.

Based on these and other considerations, your surgeon will advise either

  • Open surgery, where one large incision over the hernia is made, or
  • Laparoscopic surgery, where four small incisions around the hernia are made and small surgical tools are manipulated inside the body with the aid of a fiber optic light and camera.

In both approaches, surgical mesh will likely be used to repair the hole in the abdominal muscle. In early days of hernia surgery, the muscle was simply stitched together, and in certain cases (with small hernias) this approach may still be taken. However, mesh is preferred by most surgeons because it offers a “tension-free” approach, meaning the muscle does not have to be pulled together.

7. What are the risks of hernia repair surgery?

Like all surgery, ventral hernia repair surgery can result in

  • Infection
  • Post-operative pain
  • Injury to internal structures
  • Blood clots
  • Seromas (fluid build up).

The use of surgical mesh in hernia surgeries is associated with another subset of complications that include

Some brands of hernia mesh historically carry higher rates of these risks. 4 Your surgeon and hospital are responsible for choosing devices that have been sufficiently researched and carry a low risk of complications.

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8. Is it necessary to contact a medical malpractice and personal injury attorney?

Each year in the United States alone, $3.4 billion is spent repairing hernias surgically. The sheer volume of hernia repairs makes the field competitive for medical manufacturers who hope to provide surgeons with devices like surgical mesh for their operations. If you believe you have suffered unnecessary side effects from the improper use of hernia mesh or from a defective mesh implant, it may be in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney.

References

  1. Brooks, David C. and John Cone. Management of ventral hernias. UptoDate. March 14, 2018.
  2. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. Laparoscopic Ventral Hernia Repair Patient Information. March 1, 2015.
  3. American College of Surgeons. Ventral Hernia Repair. 2015.
  4. US Food and Drug Administration. Hernia Surgical Mesh Implants.

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