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Umbilical Hernia Repair: What to Expect at Home

An umbilical hernia next to the belly button

Your Recovery

After surgery, you are likely to have pain for a few days. The area around your navel may be swollen for several weeks. You may also feel like you have influenza (flu), and you may feel tired and nauseated. This is common.

You should feel better after a few days.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Allow your body to heal. Don't move quickly until you are feeling better.
  • Don't lift anything heavier than 4.5 kilograms until your doctor says it's okay.
  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • You can do your normal activities when it feels okay to do so.
  • Be active. Walking is a good choice.
  • Hold a pillow over your incisions when you cough or take deep breaths. This will support your belly and may help to decrease your pain.
  • Many people are able to return to work within 2 to 3 days after surgery. But if your job requires you to do heavy lifting or strenuous activity, you may need to take 4 to 6 weeks off from work.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • If your bowel movements are not regular right after surgery, try to avoid constipation and straining. Drink plenty of water. Your doctor may suggest fibre, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking this medicine again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.

Incision care

  • You will have a dressing over the cut (incision). A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • If you had stitches, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
  • If you have skin adhesive on the cut (incision), leave it on until it falls off. Skin adhesive is also called liquid stitches.
  • You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.

Hygiene

  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Other instructions

  • You may have a special girdle, called a binder, placed around the area where you had surgery. This binder will help ease swelling and pain. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your lung (called a pulmonary embolism). These may include:
    • Sudden chest pain.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Coughing up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You cannot pass stool or gas.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You are bleeding from the incision.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not have a bowel movement within several days after the surgery.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.