This page will give you information about an open incisional hernia repair. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is an incisional hernia?
Any operation on your abdomen needs a cut that is closed with stitches. Sometimes your wound does not heal properly and a weakness happens in the muscle layer. This results in the contents of your abdomen, along with the inner layer, pushing through your abdominal muscles. This produces a lump under your skin called a hernia.
What are the benefits of surgery?
You should no longer have the hernia. Surgery should prevent serious complications and allow you to return to normal activities.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
You can sometimes control the hernia with supportive clothing or simply leave it alone. It will not get better without surgery.
What will happen if I decide not to have the operation?
The hernia will get larger with time. It can also be dangerous because your intestines or other structures within your abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia). This is uncommon but you will need an urgent and larger operation, with a higher risk of developing serious complications. If left untreated, a strangulated hernia can be life-threatening.
If you are female and are planning to become pregnant, it is usually better to wait until after your pregnancy before having the operation. Pregnancy increases the size of your abdomen and may undo the hernia repair.
Your surgeon will tell you the risks of delaying having the operation.
What does the operation involve?
Various anaesthetic techniques are possible.
The operation can take between 90 minutes and 5 hours, sometimes longer in more complicated cases. Your surgeon will make a cut through your old scar. They will repair the weak tissue either with stitches only or using a synthetic mesh, which they will stitch to the muscles under your skin.
Your surgeon will close your skin over the repair. They may need to form a flap of skin over the repair so that your skin closes properly.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
- unsightly scarring of your skin
- blood clot in your leg
- blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
- developing a collection of blood (haematoma) or fluid (seroma) under your wound
- difficulty passing urine
- skin necrosis, where some of the skin flap dies
- injury to your bowel
- damage to nerves
- removing your belly button
How soon will I recover?
You may be able to go home the same day or your doctor may recommend that you stay in hospital for one or more days.
Increase how much you walk around over the first few days.
Your doctor will tell you when you can return to work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities. However, the hernia can come back.
An incisional hernia is a weakness in your abdominal wall which happens when previous wounds do not heal properly. If left untreated, an incisional hernia can cause serious complications.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2021