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Frequently Asked Questions About Hernias

Hernia Concept

Hernias are a common abdominal condition that can affect everyone from newborns to adults. Drexel Medicine's Lauren McCormack, MD, MPH, answers some common questions regarding symptoms and treatment. Dr. McCormack specializes in bariatric surgery, minimally invasive surgery, robotic surgery and general surgery.

What is a hernia?

A hernia is a hole in the strength layer of the abdominal wall. This hole allows bowel, organs and anything inside your abdomen out. They can occur anywhere: groin, abdomen, belly button, flank and even chest.

What are the symptoms of a hernia?

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The most common symptom of a hernia is a painful or uncomfortable bulge. The bulge may come and go, and it usually reduces when lying down. If you notice increasing abdominal pain, a painful bulge that can't be pushed back in, nausea, vomiting or cannot pass gas, these are signs of an emergency and you need to go to the emergency room.

When should a person see a doctor if they think they have a hernia?

If you think you have a hernia, you should have a doctor evaluate it. At the visit, the doctor can confirm your hernia and discuss options for treatment.

How does a doctor test for hernias?

Most of the time the doctor can confirm the hernia during the physical exam. Occasionally, an ultrasound or CT scan is ordered for very small or large hernias.

What is the treatment for hernias?

The only true "cure" for a hernia is surgery. Depending on the size and location of the hernia it may be performed laparoscopically, robotically or with an open incision. Hernia belts, trusses and supportive garments can be used to help reduce hernia symptoms.

What can happen if someone does not get treatment for their hernia?

The most common thing that happens is that the hernia will get larger with time. Large hernias are usually more uncomfortable. The most dangerous complication is called incarceration. This is when the bowel or an organ gets stuck in the hole and cannot get out. This causes lack of blood flow to the bowel, which causes a bowel blockage and for the bowel to die. While uncommon, this is a surgical emergency.

Related Physician

Lauren McCormack, MD, MPH

Lauren McCormack, MD, MPH
Title: Faculty
Practice: Drexel Surgery
Specialties: Bariatric Surgery, Minimally Invasive Surgery, Robotic Surgery, General Surgery

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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