Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.


A hernia forms when the abdominal wall weakens, bulges, or tears. The inner lining of the abdomen and small intestine can poke out of this weakened area. A hernia repair is a surgery to push the abdominal material back where it belongs and to repair the abdominal wall.

Abdominal Hernia
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

A hernia repair is done if the hernia is large and causing pain. Strangulated hernias can cut off blood supply and require immediate hernia repair surgery.

Without surgery, the hernia will not heal. The pain and size of the hernia usually increases over time.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Damage to neighboring organs or structures such as the intestines or bladder
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Chronic pain from nerve damage

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Having neurological, heart, or lung conditions
  • Age: older than 70 years
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Active infection

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • ECG to measure electrical activity of the heart.
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.

On the days before and the day of your procedure, your doctor may recommend that you:

  • Follow a special diet.
  • Take antibiotics.
  • Shower the night before, using antibacterial soap.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home and to help you at home.
  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.


Depending on the type of repair, you may receive:

  • Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep during the procedure

Description of Procedure

There are 2 main types of surgeries. A conventional surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Conventional surgery uses a large incision so that the doctor can directly access the area. Laparoscopic surgery uses smaller incisions and special surgical tools. You and your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of each surgery to determine which may be best for you. Factors like your overall health, location of hernia, and complications will play a role in the decision.

Conventional Hernia Repair

An incision is made over the hernia site. The hernia will be moved back into the abdominal cavity, or the sac may be removed. In the case of hiatal hernia, the stomach is moved from the chest cavity back down to the abdominal cavity.

For some, the weakened muscles that allowed the hernia to develop are sewn together. If the weakened area is large or in the groin, a piece of mesh will be placed over the area to create a new wall. If mesh is used, the muscle is not sewn together. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.

Laparoscopic Hernia Repair

Small incisions will be made around the hernia. Special surgical tools will be placed through these incisions. A small camera will be passed through an incision so that the doctor can see inside the abdomen. Other small instruments will be used to complete the repair.

After the procedure, the incisions will be closed with stitches or staples. A sterile dressing will be applied.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be taken to a recovery area. Fluids and pain medications will be delivered through an IV. If there are no problems, you will be moved to a hospital room to recover.

How Long Will It Take?

Less than 2 hours

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Post-procedure Care

At home, slowly return to to normal activity and diet. Your doctor may advise pain medications. You will have to restrict activities during your recovery. Avoid straining and heavy lifting until your doctor says it is okay to do so. Follow wound care instructions to avoid infection. The recovery time will be shorter for laparoscopic surgery.

There is some risk that the hernia could return. To reduce your risk:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthful diet.
  • Strengthen your abdominal muscles.
  • Treat chronic constipation, allergies, or chronic cough.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
  • Pain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
  • Excessive tenderness or swelling
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2018 -
  • Update Date: 05/01/2014 -