Do you notice a bulge or have dull pain below the belt? You may assume that you have a pulled muscle, but your symptoms could signal a more serious problem.
Normally, the muscles and tissue of your abdominal wall keep your organs safely tucked inside. But sometimes, a weak spot or tear in the muscle in your lower belly allows a bit of fat or a piece of your intestines to poke through. If this happens in the area where your thigh meets your torso, you’ve got a groin hernia.
Spot the warning signs
Some people with a groin hernia may not even realize it since they don’t always cause symptoms. In most cases, the first sign is a small lump on one side of the groin, but it could happen on both sides at the same time. This bulge may get bigger over time and it may flatten out when you lie down.
How hernias are repaired
In many cases, a groin hernia can be quickly diagnosed by reviewing medical history and with a physical exam. You may be asked to stand and cough. If you have a hernia, a bulge may appear in your groin. Sometimes, an ultrasound or other imaging tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis.
“Keep in mind, even if your groin hernia doesn’t cause symptoms, you may still need surgery to repair it sooner rather than later”, says Adam Kurtin,DO, a surgeon affiliated with St. Lucie Medical Center. “This is particularly true if you have a femoral hernia since this type is more likely to lead to complications”, Kurtin says. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
The type of operation used to repair a groin hernia is determined based on a number of variables, including its size and location, Kurtin explains. Surgical options include:
- Open hernia repair: A 3-to-5-inch incision is made near the hernia site. The surgeon pushes the tissue back into place. A repair is then made using sutures only or by sewing in synthetic and biological mesh for added strength. Your hernia is much less likely to come back if the surgeon uses mesh, which is considered very safe in hernia repair operations, Ford says.
- Laparoscopic repair: For this minimally-invasive procedure, a surgeon makes three small incisions in the abdominal wall. Then, a laparoscope – a tube with a tiny camera at the end – is placed into one incision to provide the surgeon with a close-up 2-dimensional view of the hernia to guide the surgical repair, which is made through the other incisions.
- Robotic laparoscopic repair: This surgical method utilizes the same techniques as the laparoscopic repair but with the help of a robot. A surgeon manipulates a robot’s “arms,” which are holding tools that can twist and turn like a human wrist. The robot also provides surgeons with a highly magnified 3-dimensional view of the abdomen and hernia site.
The bottom line: If you suspect you have a groin hernia, don’t ignore it; see your doctor. For a free physician referral, call 772-742-9050.
This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.