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Open surgery to repair a hernia

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have a hernia. It tells you about having surgery through an open cut in your groin, a treatment used to repair hernias. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes. Your surgeon can mend your inguinal hernia through a cut in your groin. This will get rid of the bulge and prevent a blocked bowel.

But you may recover faster and have less pain and numbness in your groin if you have keyhole surgery instead.

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, tissue, and possibly 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 small cuts in your abdomen and uses a camera to see inside your groin instead of opening it up.

This information is about open surgery. To read more about keyhole surgery, see Keyhole surgery to repair a hernia.

If you have open surgery, you'll probably be given a general anaesthetic to make you sleep. Some people have a local anaesthetic or an epidural (an injection in the spine) to numb their groin. Having a local anaesthetic may mean you have less pain in the days immediately after surgery than if you had an epidural. [21]

Here's what happens during the operation.

  • Your surgeon makes a cut between 5 and 10 centimetres long (about 2 to 4 inches long) along the crease of your groin.

  • If you have a hernia that's bulging through a hole in your muscles (a direct hernia), the bowel and fat can be pushed into place through the muscle.

  • If you have a hernia that's bulging through the gap between muscles (an indirect hernia), the thin film around the hernia (the hernia sac) is stitched up and cut away or sometimes pushed back.

  • The surgeon usually covers the hole in the muscle with a patch of mesh. Some surgeons fix the mesh in place with staples or stitches. Others place it on the muscles and let scar tissue grow around it to hold it in place.

  • You'll probably need stitches to close the wound. These will eventually dissolve.

We've prepared some extra information for people thinking of having this operation. To read more, see Hernia surgery.

Last Updated: June 29, 2012
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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