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I Have a Bulge in My Abdomen – Could it be a Hernia?

Dr. Matt ConwayBy Matt Conway, MD, FACS, Medical Director of Rutland General Surgery at Rutland Regional Medical Center

Simply put, a hernia is a hole where there shouldn’t be a hole in the muscular wall of the abdomen. Through that hole, anything from within the abdomen may bulge out causing a lump.

Hernias can occur at any age. In infants and children these are rare and typically present from birth. They are more commonly found in adults and are the result of the normal wear and tear of life. That sudden strain of a pulled muscle may just be a pulled muscle. But if you develop a bulge a week later well...

The most common sites for hernias are in the groin area called an inguinal hernia, and the belly button, called an umbilical hernia. But hernias can occur almost anywhere in the abdominal wall. Developing a hernia at the site of previous abdominal surgery is all too common.

Hernias often have no symptoms other than a bulge or bump. The bulge usually is a result of something from inside your belly poking out through the hole. Most often this is fatty tissue but can include loops of bowel. If your bulge is painful surgeons will want to fix the hernia to prevent other problems from occurring. It can happen that what pokes out gets stuck in the hernia. This is called incarceration and often can produce pain. Worse though, is that once stuck in place those things which are incarcerated can strangulate or die. This uncommon potential risk is the main reason we recommend repair of hernias.

Once you have a hernia, they do not go away on their own and over time they become bigger and usually more painful. Most often, they are repaired before any problems develop. In this day and age, minimally invasive surgery or laparoscopic surgery (little incisions to fix big problems) is how they are repaired. Using a mesh for that repair is the standard of care and is the best way to keep the hernia from coming back.

Hernia surgery is an outpatient procedure, which simply means that you come in and go home on the same day. Postoperatively, return to normal activities are determined by the degree of pain, size of the hernia and one’s normal activities or work.

If you suspect you have a hernia, or any other lumps or bumps where they shouldn’t be, make an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as you can to discuss your options.

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