You might be researching hernia surgery, or you may have recently had it and you’re wondering what are the chances that the procedure fails due to recurrence. Recurrence of a hernia means the reemergence of the hernia after it has been repaired surgically. Naturally, our patients are interested to know if their hernia can recur and how it can be prevented.
The short answer is yes, a hernia can come back, but it’s not something to actively worry about. Modern hernia surgery has reduced the recurrence rate to somewhere between 1% and 3%, down from 15% or even more just a few decades ago. But, in order to assess the risk of developing a recurrent hernia, we have to understand how to prevent one.
What Causes Recurrence?
Obesity – excess weight around the abdomen places undue stress on the abdominal cavity. For someone who has recently had hernia surgery, this is of particular concern. The increased pressure in the abdomen can cause the hernia to recur depending on the type of hernia repair.
Smoking can also be a factor in recurrence. Smokers tend to recover poorly and experience a greater risk of infection and other postoperative complications. This can all increase the risk of a recurrence. Associated pulmonary obstructive disease that caused heavy coughing can also cause the hernia to recur.
Overexerting before the time is right. As patients begin to feel better after their hernia surgery, they may want to hasten their recovery process by lifting heavy boxes or participating in vigorous activity of other kinds. This can cause complications including early recurrence of the hernia.
Using mesh. While mesh has come under fire and remains a controversial topic, for hernias, mesh clearly improves the likelihood of a successful long-term repair. Tension repairs that use sutures to close the hernia defect have an exceptionally high recurrence rate over the long term, while a mesh repair boasts low single-digit recurrence.
Proper Mesh Sizing. The type and size of mesh used for the hernia repair can also minimize the risk of recurrence. It is important that you choose a very experienced hernia surgeon to ensure they have the full breadth of knowledge as to what kind of mesh to use.
Of note: hernia patients, especially those that undergo an inguinal or groin hernia repair may experience swelling for several days and even a couple weeks after surgery. Many believe that this is a recurrence of hernia, but the likelihood is that it is not. If the pain and swelling around the site of the hernia is increasing after surgery, there may be a problem and a trip to the ER as soon as possible is warranted. A strangulated hernia can be a life-threatening situation
The Bottom Line
Over 1 million hernias are repaired every year in the United States and most are performed safely and effectively. The likelihood of a successful long-term hernia repair is increased significantly by employing a surgeon that specializes in hernia repair and has extensive experience in these procedures. Further, closely following postop instructions reduces the likelihood of recurrence significantly. The surgeons at MASJax have performed thousands of hernia repairs along with other general surgery procedures. The first step is a consultation with one of our surgeons to learn more.