The abdominal wall covers the front of the body from the ribs to the pelvis. It normally keeps abdominal tissue in place. When the abdominal wall tears or weakens, tissue pushes out. This creates a hernia. The tissue pushed through can be loops of intestine, fat, or other tissue. The weakness may be caused by:
Increased abdominal pressure
Surgery or injury to the abdomen
Weak spots may be present at birth. Others may develop later in life from general weakness, injury, or surgery.
Older adults are at increased risk.
Other factors that may increase the chances of a ventral hernia:
Straining during bowel movements
Excess body weight
Previous abdominal surgery
Surgical wound infection
Hernias produce a bulge under the skin. It may not cause any other symptoms. Sometimes you may notice pain that increases during the day. Activities that may cause pain include:
Straining during bowel movements or urination
Sitting or standing for long periods of time
Sometimes a loop of intestine becomes trapped in the abdominal wall. This may lead to a blockage of the intestine. Strangulation can also occur if the hernia is slowing or blocking blood flow. Symptoms of a strangulated hernia include:
Many hernias enlarge over time. A hernia may be easily pushed back in, without causing any symptoms. In this case, your doctor may choose to watch it. Otherwise, surgery is usually performed to fix the weakened area of the abdominal wall.
Hernias are repaired with surgery. During the surgery, the displaced organs are put back into place. The damaged wall is repaired. A piece of mesh may also be placed over the area to provide extra support.
Hernias of the abdominal wall. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/hernias-of-the-abdominal-wall. Updated January 2017. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Laparoscopic ventral hernia repair from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.sages.org/publications/patient-information/patient-information-for-laparoscopic-ventral-hernia-repair-from-sages. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Mittal T, Kumar V, Khullar R, et al. Diagnosis and management of Spigelian hernia: areview of literature and our experience. J Minim Access Surg. 2008;4(4):95-98.
Ventral hernia. Dartmouth-Hitchcock website. Available at: http://www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/hernia/ventral_hernia.html. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Ventral hernia. UCSF Health website. Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/ventral_hernia. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/1/2014
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