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Inguinal Hernia (cont.)

Exams and Tests

The diagnosis of inguinal hernia is usually based on your medical history and a physical exam. Tests such as ultrasound and CT scans are not usually needed to diagnose an inguinal hernia. In most cases, a doctor can identify an inguinal hernia during a physical exam.

An examination of urine (urinalysis) may be done to rule out a urinary tract infection. A urinary tract infection or kidney stone may cause pain in the groin that can be mistaken for hernia pain. Further tests may be done to rule out other conditions that could be contributing to the hernia, such as colon or prostate cancer or lung diseases that cause chronic coughing.

If surgery is planned, other tests may be needed to evaluate the status of any current health problems, such as lung, heart, or bleeding problems.

Treatment Overview

Surgery is the only treatment and cure for inguinal hernia. Hernia repair is one of the most common surgeries done in the United States. About 750,000 people have hernia repairs each year.2

Many doctors recommend surgery to repair a hernia because it prevents strangulation, which occurs when a loop of intestine is trapped tightly in a hernia and the blood supply is cut off, killing the tissue. Strangulation requires immediate surgery, although the condition is rare in adults. Infants and children always need surgery to repair a hernia because of the increased risk of incarceration and strangulation.

If your hernia does not bother you, you may not need to have surgery. Waiting to have surgery does not increase the chance that part of your intestine or abdominal tissue will get stuck in your hernia. Waiting will also not increase your risk for problems, if you decide to have surgery later. In some cases, hernias that are small and painless may never need to be repaired.

Click here to view a Decision Point.Inguinal Hernia: Should I Have Surgery for Inguinal Hernia Now, or Should I Wait?

Talk with your doctor before wearing a corset or truss for a hernia. These devices are not recommended for treating hernias and sometimes can do more harm than good.

Hernias in children

In a child, a hernia that is incarcerated may be pushed back into the abdomen by a doctor. But surgery is still needed because of the increased risk of strangulation.

  • If the doctor cannot push the hernia back at the time of the exam, the child may be sedated and laid down with his or her head lower than the body, with an ice pack over the hernia.
  • If the hernia does not reduce on its own, the doctor may try to push it back into the abdomen.
  • If the hernia is reduced, surgery can be delayed for a short time.
  • If the hernia cannot be reduced, immediate surgery is needed.

What to think about

A surgeon's experience plays an important role in the risk of a hernia recurring. If you are thinking about having hernia surgery, ask the surgeon how many of these surgeries he or she has performed and about his or her recurrence rates. Recurrence rates tend to be higher for surgeries that do not use mesh (a synthetic patch).

Some people with other medical conditions may choose not to have surgery or may not be able to have hernia surgery.

  • People with major health problems, such as uncontrolled diabetes, may need to bring these conditions under control before having hernia surgery.
  • Conditions that cause coughing or straining to pass stools or urine (such as lung diseases or prostate problems) may need to be corrected before surgery so that the hernia is less likely to recur after repair.
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