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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Hernia repair surgery

Pokanga whakatika whaturama

Not all hernias need to be treated. But when they do, it's with an operation called a hernia repair.

This can be done by keyhole surgery (also called laparoscopic surgery) or by using a larger cut (open surgery).

In keyhole surgery, the surgeon makes several small cuts in your abdomen. They insert surgical instruments, including a telescope with a light into your body through these small cuts to find and repair the hernia.

The hernia is repaired by pulling together muscles and ligaments to close the opening or by using mesh. Mesh is a loosely woven sheet, typically made of a sterile, woven plastic-like material such as polypropylene.

Surgical experts around the world have looked carefully at hernia repairs and report that using a mesh is the best way to repair hernias. Without using a mesh, it's difficult or impossible to repair some hernias.

The use of mesh is considered safe for repairing abdominal hernias.

Most people are put to sleep under a general anaesthetic for hernia repair surgery, but some people have a local or regional anaesthetic instead. You may go home the same day without staying overnight. But if you have a larger hernia, you may need a few days in hospital to recover from the surgery.

You may be able to get your hernia repair through the public health system.

ACC may fund your surgery if your hernia was caused by an accident or has developed around the scar from a previous surgery (this is called an incisional hernia).

Talk to your general practice team about what options you have.

You may want to pay a private general surgeon to perform your hernia repair.

Risks and complications of hernia repair surgery

Most hernia repairs are low risk, but all operations carry some risk and it's important to discuss this with your surgeon before you decide if you want surgery. Tell them about any problems you've had with operations or healing, including reactions to medicines. The risks below are not the only risks but are the most common ones or the most serious.

Specific risks of hernia repair surgery

After surgery, some people get a fluid-filled area called a seroma, which may need draining. Seromas are common after larger hernia repairs.

A few people (less than 10%) get chronic pain after an open inguinal repair. This is less common after keyhole repair. People who have mesh hernia repairs are less likely to experience this than people who have repairs without mesh.

Very rarely, there is injury affecting the bladder or bowel.

Infection in the mesh after hernia surgery is rare – it happens in less than 1% of cases – and is even lower after keyhole surgery.

Your hernia may also come back. This happens in around 1% of open inguinal hernia repairs, 0.2% of laparoscopic inguinal hernia repairs and 10% of incisional hernia repairs.

On the next page: After hernia repair surgery

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2022.


See also:

Communication cards in multiple languages

Overview of surgery

Page reference: 138548

Review key: HIHER-19885