Hernias are pretty common — in fact, roughly 10% of Americans will have some type of hernia at some point during their lifetimes. Hernias happen when an organ “pokes” through a weak area in the muscle wall that surrounds it, causing symptoms like pain, burning, and a characteristic bulge.
You’re more likely to have a hernia if you’re overweight, you’re a smoker, or you do a lot of repetitive lifting or other activities that put strain on your belly area. Pregnancy and prior surgery also increase your risk.
At his state-of-the-art practice in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Michael H. Tarlowe, MD, ensures that each patient gets the most appropriate hernia care based on their symptoms and other factors. If you have a hernia, here’s how to tell when it’s time to seek medical care.
When your hernia needs medical attention
All hernias need to be medically evaluated. Even though you may not have a lot of pain currently, a hernia can quickly worsen and cause serious — even life-threatening — complications.
If your initial evaluation shows your hernia is mild, then Dr. Tarlowe may recommend monitoring at first. He’ll also make sure you understand when you need to seek medical care if your symptoms become worse.
Generally speaking, you should call the office right away if you have these symptoms:
- Changes in size, color, or shape of your hernia
- Fever or chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe pain
- Racing heart rate
- Bloating, constipation, or inability to move your bowels
These warning signs could indicate that your hernia has become strangulated, cut off from oxygen-rich blood. WIthout immediate medical care, tissue death can occur, and the condition can quickly become life-threatening.
Repairing a hernia
Hernias don’t get better on their own. There are no exercises or therapies that can restore the weak wall of tissue that’s allowing an underlying organ to “poke” through. The only way to “fix” a hernia is with surgery.
Open hernia surgery
Open hernia surgery uses one larger incision to access the area where the organ has pushed through the weak spot in your muscle wall. Dr. Tarlowe repositions the organ behind the muscle wall, then reinforces the weak spot with sutures or a synthetic mesh “patch.”
Afterward, most patients return home the same day as their surgery, typically after a few hours spent in a recovery area for observation. Activities are modified during healing, and you can expect to resume most activities within about 4-6 weeks.
Laparoscopic hernia surgery
This minimally invasive approach uses a special instrument called a laparoscope. The scope is long, thin, and flexible, and it’s also equipped with a camera capable of sending detailed live video to a monitor. Dr. Tarlowe views the video and uses it to perform the surgery without the need of a larger incision.
Laparoscopic surgery typically uses three tiny incisions — one for the laparoscope and two others for special surgical instruments. Once the incisions are made, Dr. Tarlowe inflates the area with an inert gas. This step makes it easier for him to see the surgical site clearly.
Next, he gently pushes the organ back into place, then uses sutures or mesh to strengthen and patch the weak spot. Laparoscopic surgery is also performed on an outpatient basis, and most patients experience a shorter and more comfortable recovery compared to open surgery.
Don’t ignore hernia symptoms
Even if your hernia doesn’t cause any symptoms or causes only occasional mild discomfort, it still needs to be evaluated and closely monitored to prevent serious complications. To learn more about hernia diagnosis and management, call 954-256-1842 or book an appointment online with Dr. Tarlowe today.