Does a Hernia Always Require Surgery?

Hernias occur when a weak spot in your muscle wall allows an organ or other tissue to protrude beyond its normal boundaries. The most common types of hernias are those that occur in the belly or groin area. Hernias don’t heal on their own, but not all hernias cause symptoms. So does that mean they still require surgery?

Michael H Tarlowe, M.D., offers hernia treatment at his offices in Manhattan and White Plains, New York. If you’re having hernia symptoms, or if you’ve already been diagnosed with a hernia, here’s how to tell if surgery could be in your future.

Why surgery makes sense

Millions of people suffer from hernias, including men, women, and even kids. In nearly all cases, a hernia requires prompt surgical care. Why? There are two primary reasons:

It won’t heal on its own

A hernia is a permanent change in your anatomy that isn’t going to reverse itself and go back to normal. It forms as a result of a permanent weakness in your muscle wall — and it needs surgery to fix it. Even if the symptoms you’re having right now are mild, there’s a good chance they’ll get worse over time. In the meantime, you’ll need to restrict your activities a lot. If you don’t have surgery, you’ll be leaving yourself at risk for much more serious complications.

It could become “incarcerated”

Incarceration occurs when the muscle or organ that’s pressing against your hernia actually pokes through to the other side of your abdominal wall and gets stuck there. Over time — sometimes, a very short time — the opening around the organ or tissue squeezes the area that’s poking through, causing what’s called strangulation. Not only can that cause serious damage to the organ or tissue, but it can also begin to restrict blood flow. 

Because it’s deprived of oxygen and nutrients, in a short time the organ or tissue can start to die. Hernia strangulation is a very serious and even life-threatening condition, and it can occur rapidly, even if your hernia isn’t causing major symptoms now.

Wait and see?

Ultimately, a hernia requires surgery to repair. But in very few cases, it might be OK to take a “watchful waiting” approach instead of heading right to surgery. Dr. Tarlowe might recommend this option if your hernia is especially small and causing no symptoms. 

The key is to be completely honest with Dr. Tarlowe about any pain or other issues you might be experiencing. That way, you can be sure it’s OK to wait on having surgery, without increasing your risk of incarceration or strangulation.

Remember, though: Even if you delay surgery now, your hernia will not go away on its own. Having a hernia repaired while it’s small means a faster recovery and a quicker return to normal activities without worry. 

Over time your muscles can continue to weaken, allowing your hernia to grow considerably larger, which means you’re more likely to have a lot of pain and your surgery and recovery might be more complicated. Plus, while you might be healthy right now, your health status could change by the time you have surgery — and that can increase the risk of complications.

Expert treatment for your hernia

Although all hernia repair requires surgery, the only way to know for sure if it’s OK to delay treatment for a little while is to talk to Dr. Tarlowe. 

To learn more about hernia care, call one of our offices or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment today.

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