Hernia Repair Surgery: Treatment, Types, Recovery

Hernia repair is a common surgery. The three main types of hernia repair surgery are open, laparoscopic (minimally invasive), and robotic. This article provides details on each procedure and recovery time.

How is a hernia treated?

The treatment for most hernias is surgery. Open hernia repair, laparoscopic hernia repair, and robotic hernia repair are the three main types of hernia surgery.

What is open hernia repair surgery?

Open hernia repair, or a direct herniorrhaphy, involves making an incision in the groin and then pushing the hernia “sac” back into the abdomen, strengthening the abdominal wall with stitches or synthetic mesh. Most patients can go home a few hours after surgery, and feel fine within a few days. Strenuous activity is restricted for four to six weeks after the surgery.

What is laparoscopic (minimally invasive) hernia repair surgery?

Laparoscopic (minimally invasive) hernia repair is performed using a laparoscope — a thin telescope-like instrument inserted through a small incision at the umbilicus (belly button) and is generally performed under general anesthesia. Before the procedure, you will have an evaluation of your general state of health, including a history, physical exam (and possibly lab work) and an electrocardiogram (EKG).

The doctors will give you a general anesthetic and a muscle relaxant to keep you still and comfortable. A small incision will be made in your abdominal wall to allow the laparoscope to be inserted. The laparoscope is connected to a tiny video camera, smaller than a dime, that projects an “inside view” of your body onto television screens in the operating room.

During this procedure, the abdominal cavity is inflated with carbon dioxide gas (which is harmless) to create space for your doctor to view structures within the abdominal wall. Using a scalpel, your doctor will cut (incise) the peritoneum and expose two small areas of weakened abdominal wall tissue. A piece of mesh is placed over the weak spots and sewn into place to strengthen the tissue and prevent future tears.

After the procedure is completed, the small abdominal incisions are closed with stitches or surgical tape. Within a few months, the incisions are barely noticeable.

The benefits of laparoscopic hernia repair include three tiny scars rather than one larger incision, less pain after surgery, a quicker return to work and a shorter recovery time.

What is robotic hernia repair surgery?

The robotic technique of hernia repair, like that of laparoscopic surgery, involves using a laparoscope and is performed in the same manner (small incisions, a tiny camera, inflation of the abdomen, projecting the inside of the abdomen onto television screens).

Robotic surgery, also called minimally invasive surgery, differs from laparoscopic surgery in that the surgeon is seated at a console in the operating room and handles the surgical instruments from the console. Robotic surgery can be used for some smaller hernias or weak areas, but it can now also be used to reconstruct the abdominal wall as well.

Laparoscopic surgery provides two-dimensional images of the inside of the abdomen, whereas robotic surgery provides excellent three-dimensional images of that area. In addition, robotic surgery allows the use of stitches to sew tissue and meshes inside the abdomen.

Robotic hernia surgery offers several benefits: patients may have smaller incision scars than those who receive traditional open surgery, and there is less pain after robotic hernia surgery than after open hernia surgery.