General Surgery

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Division of General Surgery


Inguinal (Groin) Hernias


One in four men will develop or be diagnosed with an inguinal hernia at some point in his lifetime. Today, inguinal hernia repair is one of the most common operations performed by general surgeons - nearly 600,000 operations are performed annually in the United States. The most common reason to repair a hernia is to correct pain and discomfort related to the presence of this hernia. Some inguinal hernias may become stuck or “incarcerated” necessitating a more urgent procedure. Inguinal hernias can be repaired with an open approach (a single larger incision in the groin) or a laparoscopic approach (several smaller incisions, also called a minimally invasive approach). There are advantages and disadvantages to each technique.

Open Inguinal Hernia Repair

There are a variety of techniques employed for open inguinal hernia repair. Most of the time, a piece of mesh is used for reinforcement during the repair. Without mesh, the risk of the hernia coming back again (recurrence) is quite high in most cases. The mesh used in inguinal hernia repair is usually synthetic material that looks like a screen. Mesh comes in many different shapes, sizes, and is made from a variety of materials. In open inguinal hernia surgery, a single incision is made in the groin. This incision is larger than what is required for a laparoscopic hernia repair. Certain hernias are best repaired in an open manner. Long term outcomes for hernia repairs performed in an open or a laparoscopic manner are similar. For a full discussion of the risks, options, and alternatives to an open approach, please make an appointment with a surgeon.

Laparoscopic Inguinal Hernia Repair

Laparoscopic techniques for inguinal hernia repair were first introduced about 20 years ago. Despite this fact, only about 1 of every 5 inguinal hernia repairs is currently performed laparoscopically. The majority of inguinal hernia repairs in this country are still performed with an open technique through a larger groin incision. This may at least partially relate to the fact that laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair techniques are difficult to master. Open inguinal hernia repair is much easier to learn. They are both good techniques with excellent results in experienced hands.

Some of the advantages to a laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair when compared to an open technique include:

  • The possibility that there is less pain immediately following surgery.
  • A potential for a quicker return to work and full activities.
  • Bilateral (left and right) inguinal hernias can be repaired during the same laparoscopic procedure without additional incisions.
  • Hernias that have already been repaired with an open technique that ultimately recur are likely best approached laparoscopically.

Hernia Surgery Program

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Page Updated 12/14/2012