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Hernia Repair: Before Your Surgery

Common locations of hernias, showing epigastric below chest, umbilical at belly button, incisional at surgical incision site, inguinal at groin, and femoral at upper leg, with inside view of intestine protruding from hole in muscle wall

What is hernia repair surgery?

A hernia occurs when a weak spot in your belly muscles allows a piece of your intestines or the tissue around them to poke through. This can cause a bulge in the area. It can also cause pain. But you may not feel anything.

The hernia may be in your groin. Or it may be near your belly button. In some cases, it's in a scar from an earlier surgery. A doctor can fix a hernia through a cut (incision) made near it. This is called open surgery. Or the doctor may make some very small cuts and use a thin, lighted scope and small tools. This is laparoscopic surgery. If your hernia is bulging, the bulge is pushed back into place. The doctor then sews the healthy tissue back together. Often a piece of material is used to patch the weak spot.

Open surgery will leave a longer scar. Laparoscopic surgery leaves a few small scars. The scars will fade with time.

You may need to take 1 to 2 weeks off from work. This depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 30 minutes to 2 hours. This depends on the size of the hernia and where it is.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

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