By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
A hernia is the protrusion of an internal body part through a weak area of surrounding muscle or tissue that usually contains the organ within.
In many cases, hernia do not cause symptoms, but depending on how severe a hernia is, it can be associated with several complications.
Most hernias are reducible, which means that the herniated contents can be manipulated back into the abdominal cavity. Irreducible hernias, on the other hand, cannot be pushed back to their original location. This can lead to the following complications:
- Strangulation – Pressure placed on the hernial contents may compromise the blood supply leading to ischemia, cell death and even gangrene. A strangulated hernia is life threatening and requires immediate surgery
- Obstruction – When part of the gut herniates, the bowel contents may no longer be able to pass through the henriated area, leading to cramps, absence of defecation and vomiting.
- Inguinal hernias may increase in size over time and eventually press on the scrotum in males, leading to pain and swelling. In the case of hiatus hernia, where a stomach part pushes through the diaphragm and into the chest, heartburn may be felt.
- Complications can arise after an operation to repair the hernia. Mesh rejection may occur, in which case the mesh will need to be removed. This can usually be detected through symptoms such as swelling and pain in the area where the mesh was placed.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Aug 19, 2014