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Keyhole surgery to repair a hernia

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have a hernia. It tells you about keyhole surgery, a treatment used for repairing hernias. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes. A surgeon can mend your hernia using keyhole surgery. The operation will get rid of the bulge in your groin and prevent a blocked bowel.

You may recover faster and have less pain and numbness in your groin after keyhole surgery than after open surgery (where the surgeon makes a cut to open up your groin).

It's harder to say which type of surgery is best for people with hernias on both sides of their groin or people whose hernia has come back. There's not much research.

What is it?

An inguinal hernia is a bulge you can see or feel in your groin. The bulge is a bit of fat and bowel that has slipped through a weak spot in your abdominal muscles and down into your groin. To repair a hernia, a surgeon will usually push the lump back inside your body and cover it with a patch of mesh to keep it there.

There are two main ways to do this operation:

  • Open surgery, where the surgeon cuts open your groin

  • Keyhole surgery, where the surgeon makes a few tiny cuts in your abdomen and uses a camera to see inside your groin instead of opening it up.

This information is about keyhole surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. To read more about open surgery see Open surgery to repair a hernia.

If you have keyhole surgery, you'll probably be given a general anaesthetic to make you sleep during the operation.

Here's what happens during surgery.

  • The surgeon makes a small cut in, or just below, your belly button.

  • A thin tube with a light and camera on the end (called a laparoscope) is put through the cut and down to your groin. The camera sends pictures to a television screen so the surgeon can see inside your groin.

  • Small tools to repair the hernia are put in through one or more small cuts lower down your abdomen.

  • Your surgeon pushes the bit of bowel in the hernia back into the abdomen and closes the hole, usually with a mesh patch.

There are different ways of doing keyhole surgery for a hernia. Some surgeons cut through the thin film of tissue (peritoneum) that covers the bowel and organs in your abdomen to reach the hernia. They then fill your abdomen with air to make it easy to see in and around the hernia. Doctors call this transabdominal preperitoneal laparoscopic repair (TAPP).

Another way of doing the operation is to mend the hernia without going through the peritoneum. This is called totally extraperitoneal laparoscopic repair (TEP). It's harder to do, but there may be less chance of damaging other parts of your body.

Keyhole operations aren't usually done on babies or children.

Last Updated: October 07, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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