Health News Articles

Recognizing and Treating Hernias

Jun 1, 2013

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that approximately 5 million people in the U.S. have a hernia, though only a very small percentage of these people seek treatment. Knowing how to spot a hernia and when to seek medical treatment can save you unnecessary pain and help you enjoy life’s activities.

A hernia happens when the lining of the abdominal cavity forms a sac, which breaks through a hole or weak area in the strong layer of abdominal wall.

“The three most common types that I see are groin, or inguinal, hernias; belly button, or umbilical, hernias; and incisional hernias that develop where a patient has had a previous surgery,” says Nisha Dhir, MD, FACS, (pictured right). While hernias are sometimes seen in infants and children, they are most commonly found in adults. They may be caused by overexertion, straining to lift heavy objects, or any activity that increases internal abdominal pressure. Age, pregnancy, or previous surgeries can also lead to a hernia.

A physician can usually diagnose a hernia with a physical exam. Discomfort or pain, which may increase with standing, straining or lifting, can be a sign of a hernia. Often, patients will notice a growth that feels sensitive or tender. If a patient has a persistent pain in the abdomen without a noticeable growth, they may require an ultrasound or MRI to diagnose a small hernia.

Surgery is the only way to permanently fix a hernia. For smaller hernias, open surgery with a very small incision will be used.

The Stephen & Roxanne Distler Center for Ambulatory Surgery provides patient and family comfort and is a great place for these smaller, outpatient hernia repairs,” says Dr. Dhir, who is board certified in general surgery. “The bigger hernias, which might require laporoscopic surgery or robotic surgery, can be taken care of at UMCPP’s Center for Surgical Care.”

University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro’s (UMCPP) Center for Surgical Care offers eight state-of-the-art operating suites, plus a hybrid operating room, which allows surgeons to move from a minimally invasive procedure to a fully open surgery without moving the patient or interrupting the procedure.

The Stephen & Roxanne Distler Center for Ambulatory Surgery features four state-of-the-art operating suites, a minor procedures room, and three endoscopy rooms, allowing patients to see doctors quickly, have their procedures, and return home the same day.

Getting medical treatment as soon as possible is important for patients with a hernia. Untreated, it may get bigger and strangulate (when the tissue is stuck inside the hole and its blood supply is cut off) which can cause extreme pain. See your doctor if you have groin pain, swelling, or a bulge. Call your doctor immediately if the pain associated with your hernia increases, you develop nausea, vomiting, or fever, or if the area around your hernia becomes discolored.

For more information on the Center for Surgical Care, the Stephen & Roxanne Distler Center for Ambulatory Surgery, or to find a surgeon on staff, call 1.888.PHCS4YOU (1.888.742.7496) or visit