What Is the Hernia Surgery Recovery Process Like?
If you’re considering hernia surgery or have the procedure already booked, you’re probably feeling a bit nervous. This is completely normal before any type of surgical procedure, but you can help alleviate the feeling by gaining more understanding of the process. Hernia surgery is incredibly common, and it can be a relatively straightforward operation. To help you understand what you can expect, here is what you need to know.
What Is Hernia Surgery?
Hernia surgery involves a single incision that allows access to the bulging area. With a direct hernia, one that is bulging out of the abdominal wall, the hernia is pressed back in place and the weakened muscular area is repaired. With an indirect hernia, the procedure can be similar, although sometimes the hernia is tied off or removed.
In either case, once the hernia is removed or pushed back, the abdominal muscular wall is either sewed together to prevent reoccurrence, or a mesh is applied to repair larger hernias that are more likely to reoccur.
Synthetic meshes are now being used most often to repair hernias, and they can help reduce tension in the abdominal wall. The benefit of this is that it can decrease the chances of the hernia returning.
Open Surgery Vs Laparoscopic Surgery
Laparoscopic surgery involves multiple smaller incisions, through which narrow tubes are inserted. These tubes allow surgeons to insert long tools that can cut, sew, and manipulate the tissue.
This type of surgery can be good for patients who have hernias on both sides of their abdomen. However, because it often involves multiple incisions, some patients may prefer open surgery.
It should be noted that while laparoscopic surgery can have a quicker recovery time and less pain, it will require a general anesthetic as opposed to a local anesthetic. It can also be more costly.
The option that is best for you will depend on your specific surgeon. Some will only recommend open surgery while others recommend it for specific types of hernias. On the other hand, some surgeons prefer laparoscopic surgery except in patients who may have an increased risk of harm from general anesthesia.
The Risks of Surgery
All surgery comes with risks and hernia surgery is no different. While it is a relatively safe procedure, you should still be aware of the specific risks.
The main risk associated with this type of surgery is a negative reaction to anesthesia. This is usually associated with general anesthesia, which is used in laparoscopic surgery. Infection and bleeding after the surgery is also a risk, although it is not very common.
More infrequent risks can include nerve damage, damage to veins or the femoral artery, loss of blood supply to the scrotum or testicles, and damage to the vas deferens, the duct that carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra.
Your doctor will usually go over all of the risks involved in you before your surgery. Although it’s worth keeping in mind that all of these risks are very infrequent and the procedure is usually regarded as highly safe.
What Should You Expect After Your Surgery?
Most patients who undergo hernia surgery are able to go home the same day or the day after at the latest. It is recommended that you refrain from a lot of movement in the first couple of weeks to prevent damaging or tearing the area.
While healing, you should also hold off showering for the first couple of days. You also shouldn’t take a bath or submerge the incision site until it has healed sufficiently, usually after two weeks.
Care should be taken for the first three weeks, after which you can usually return to light activity. More strenuous activities should be put off until the six-week mark. You should be good to drive within a few days once you’re off of narcotics.
After the surgery, it’s possible that there will be some pain once you return home. Over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol can be used to help mitigate some pain. Before leaving the hospital you should make sure to ask what medicines your doctor recommends, especially if you have a lot of pain or you have sensitivities to certain medicines.
In some cases, stronger prescribed pain medications can be given, including morphine or oxycodone. Stronger options like this are only usually needed for the first two or three days.
If possible, have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours to monitor for any complications and to help you with anything you need. If you need to move, apply gentle pressure to the incision area before and during the activity.
During your recovery, make sure to stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet to prevent constipation that could cause additional pain.
The most important thing to focus on during this time is relaxing and taking it easy. Don’t push yourself harder than you need to. Always listen to your doctor’s care advice, and get help from a friend or family member if you can.
With any surgery, there is a risk for infection. While there is little risk of infection if the incisions are cared for properly, it is still something that you should be aware of.
Swelling at the incision site is common after, and a cold pack can be used to ease the inflammation. However, if the swelling is accompanied by bleeding and your incision is warm and red, you should speak to your doctor.
Some other indications of infection can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- A fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Severe pain
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Difficulty urinating
All of these symptoms could be a sign that infection has set in and you need to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Your Recovery Timeline
While not everyone’s recovery timeline will be the same, this is what patients can generally expect over the course of the first four weeks.
- Week One: During this week you’ll want to focus on relaxing and healing. You can walk around your house, but you shouldn’t attempt to return to work or lift more than 15 pounds. By day four, many people can return to work or school unless their job requires a lot of physical lifting or movement.
- Week Two: By week two, most people should be able to go back to work and school without much difficulty. You should still avoid lifting things over 20 pounds; however, light exercise like jogging, biking, or yoga can be done in moderation. You may still feel sore or stiff, and it’s important to listen to your body to avoid pushing yourself more than you can take.
- Week Three: By week three you should no longer need medication for your pain. While you should still avoid lifting, you can participate in more activities like swimming, golf, or running.
- Week Four: By week four, you should be able to return to heavy lifting, and most sports and exercises can be resumed. Although you may still have some discomfort, when the pain has subsided, you can also resume sexual activity.
While your recovery may vary, this is generally what most patients can expect their recovery timeline to look like.
Work With Your Doctor
If you are in need of hernia surgery, work closely with your doctor, and don’t hesitate to ask them to clarify any questions that you have. While it’s normal to feel nervous beforehand, hernia surgery can be hugely beneficial and it’s definitely something you don’t want to put off if you need it.