5 Types of Hernias and Their Treatments

May 7th 2016

Anyone experiencing a hernia must see a doctor to assess treatment options. Surgery is typically required when an obstruction or strangulation of the intestine occurs or is likely, but hernias with little to no symptoms may need no treatment at all.

Inguinal Hernias

Inguinal hernias occur in the groin area and are typically the result of a muscle opening left due to incomplete development of the muscle before birth. An inguinal hernia, which appears as a bulge in the groin area, can develop gradually or all at once, often after lifting a heavy weight.

Surgery is always required to repair an inguinal hernia, sometimes on an emergency basis; however, a hernia that is asymptomatic doesn't require treatment, and many people with inguinal hernias never have repair surgery. Either open surgery or laparoscopic surgery can be performed. In either case, the surgeon identifies the hernia and pushes the bulging tissue back where it belongs. Typically, the surgeon also installs a synthetic mesh patch on the weak muscle wall to prevent the hernia from recurring.

Femoral Hernias

Femoral hernias are far more common in women than in men. They occur when a segment of the lower intestine pokes through the muscle of the upper thigh. Because of their location, they're sometimes confused with inguinal hernias because the pain they cause is not well-localized. As the risk of intestinal obstruction or strangulation is high, surgery is almost always required. Open and laparoscopic surgery are both options for this type of surgery as well; typically the choice depends on the surgeon's preference.

Epigastric Hernia

Children are the most likely to experience epigastric hernias, which are typically present at birth and manifest as a small bulge between the breastbone and the belly button. Although epigastric hernias don't heal themselves, some of them seem to disappear and become asymptomatic. Surgery for an epigastric hernia is similar to that for other types of hernias, but usually it can be postponed until the child is at least a toddler. Similar to epigastric hernias are umbilical hernias, which occur a little lower on the body, around the belly button.

Hiatal Hernias

Hiatal hernias are significantly different than other hernias because they involve the stomach rather than the intestines. In a hiatal hernia, part of the stomach breaks through the diaphragm muscle. While other hernias are visible as bulges in the skin, hiatal hernias have no visible symptoms. They can, however, cause significant heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease. If a hiatal hernia is asymptomatic, it doesn't require any treatment. Rather than surgery, most doctors prefer to treat hiatal hernia symptoms with over-the-counter or prescription antacids. Surgery is required only in rare cases.

Incisional Hernia

An incisional hernia occurs when a section of intestine bursts through the scar from a previous abdominal surgery. These hernias, which occur most often with overweight people, can be very painful. Initial treatment involves wearing a truss to manage pain, but the only permanent treatment is laparoscopic surgery to repair the hernia.


There are several different types of hernias that occur in different parts of the body, including inguinal, femoral, epigastric, hiatal and incisional hernias. While the typical treatment for each of these types of hernias involves surgery, different types and techniques of surgery are used for the various hernia types.

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