A laparoscopic inguinal (groin) hernia removal involves ‘keyhole’ surgery to push back the protruding tissue and to repair the weak area of the abdominal wall. This area of the wall is often repaired with a patch of special mesh which is stitched into position during the operation. The mesh subsequently heals into the surrounding tissue, so strengthening the wall and helping to prevent further hernias.
A ’non-keyhole’ alternative to a laparoscopic hernia repair is an open groin hernia repair where a single larger incision is made to carry out the repair.
Laparoscopic ‘keyhole’ surgery usually involves less pain after the operation because the incisions are smaller and can be closed with glue, and there is less muscle damage. It can lead to faster recovery times in patients where the hernia has recurred or where they have a hernia on both sides of their body (bilateral hernias). However, the small risk of a complication, such as accidental damage to the bowel, is higher with keyhole surgery than with an open hernia repair. Both repair methods carry the same risk of a hernia returning in the future.
Surgery for an inguinal hernia is usually recommended if you are experiencing pain, severe or persistent symptoms. If a hernia is not treated, serious complications can develop if part of the bowel protrudes into the inguinal canal, obstructing or strangulating the bowel.
Obstruction occurs when the bowel becomes blocked; this causes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and a painful lump in the groin. Strangulation can occur when a section of bowel is trapped and its blood supply is cut off. This requires emergency surgery otherwise the strangulated bowel will become gangrenous and die. Surgery to repair a hernia prevents immediate complications, but there's always a chance of a hernia recurring in the future.
A hernia repair is usually performed under a general anaesthetic, so you’ll be asleep during the operation. You’ll be in hospital for up to six hours after the operation so you may need to stay overnight if your operation is scheduled late in the day or you have a long journey home.
During a laparoscopic (keyhole) hernia repair the surgeon inserts a laparoscope (a thin tube with a camera at the end) through a small incision close to your navel enabling the operation to be viewed on a screen. Using other small instruments inserted through two more small incisions, the surgeon pushes back the bulge and repairs the abdominal wall using a mesh that is glued or stapled in place. The small incisions are then closed with glue or dissolvable stitches.
The operation usually takes less than an hour to complete and most patients are usually able to go home on the same day. After surgery to repair an inguinal hernia, you may experience some pain or discomfort which we’ll help to manage with painkillers.
You can usually shower on the day after the operation if you have shower-proof dressings on the wounds. You’ll need to avoid driving for up to two weeks, and you’ll be recommended to avoid strenuous exercise or lifting for several weeks. We’ll discuss your aftercare and arrange any follow-up appointments with you before you leave hospital.
Inguinal hernias are common, and the operation to repair them is routine, with few risks. However, around one in ten hernias recur in the future.
As with any operation, there is a small risk of bleeding or infection. After an inguinal hernia repair, specific risks include:
- a build-up of blood or fluid in the space where the hernia was located
- bruising or a painful swelling of the base of the penis or testicles
- numbness or pain in the groin
- damage to the tube (vas deferens) that carries sperm to the testicles
- reduced blood supply to the testicles
Open hernia repair