Also known as keyhole surgery, this hernia treatment is carried out through a small incision in the abdomen.
What is a groin hernia?
Groin hernias are the most common type of hernia. As the name suggests, they're found on the groin (at the inguinal canal).
Groin hernias are more frequent in men as they have a hole in their abdominal wall where blood vessels supply the testicles. This weak spot can result in the contents of the abdomen pushing through, producing a lump.
A hernia can be dangerous because the intestines or other structures within the abdomen can get trapped and have their blood supply cut off (strangulated hernia). That's why it's important to seek help as soon as possible if you suspect you have a hernia.
What happens during laparoscopic groin hernia repair?
This procedure is usually performed under general anaesthetic and takes around 30 minutes.
Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery is associated with less pain and scarring than open surgery, as well as a faster return to normal activities.
In some cases, laparoscopic surgery can't be performed, and you may need to have open surgery instead. Your surgeon will carefully assess you beforehand.
Before the procedure
There are a few things you can do in the lead up to the procedure to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible:
- Let your doctor know about any medication you take and follow their instructions
- If you smoke, stop smoking several weeks before the operation
- Try to maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly – but don't do anything that involves heavy lifting or makes your hernia painful
- In the week before the operation, don't shave or wax the area where a cut is likely to be made
- Try to have a bath or shower either the day before or on the day of the operation
- If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar levels under control around the time of your procedure.
During the procedure
- Your surgeon will make a cut on or near your belly button and insert an instrument to inflate your abdominal cavity with carbon dioxide
- They'll then make two small cuts on your abdomen so they can insert surgical instruments, as well as a laparoscope (tiny telescope), via thin tubes
- Your surgeon will return the part of your abdomen that's causing the hernia and reinforce the area with surgical mesh and staples
- Finally, they'll close the cuts with stitches or glue.
After the procedure
You'll be taken to the recovery room where you'll wake up. A nurse will be there to look after you.
You may have a tube in your wound to drain away fluid that can sometimes collect.
Recovery from laparoscopic groin hernia repair
Recovery from hernia repair is usually very quick, and patients who undergo laparoscopic procedures usually get back to normal day-to-day activities in a very short space of time.
You'll have some small scars that will heal after 4–6 weeks.
Once you're back in your room, the healthcare team will check on you to make sure you're recovering well. You'll either be given injections of local anaesthetic or medication to control the pain, which is important so that you can move about and cough freely.
After keyhole surgery it's common to have some pain in your shoulders due to the small amount of carbon dioxide gas that may be left under your diaphragm. Your body will absorb the gas naturally over the next 24 hours, which will ease these symptoms.
Our team of specialist physiotherapists will provide expert treatment, rehabilitation and advice during your hospital stay and, if appropriate, follow-up as an outpatient to support your full recovery.
You should be able to go home the same day. If so, for the first 24 hours:
- you’ll need someone to take you home and stay with you overnight
- don’t drive, operate machinery, or do any potentially dangerous activities (like cooking) until you’ve fully recovered feeling, movement and co-ordination
- you shouldn’t sign legal documents or drink alcohol.
Managing your recovery at home
You should get plenty of rest for the first 24 hours, but then it’s important to stay active to avoid blood clots. Make sure you follow the instructions from our healthcare team on medication or special compression stockings.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you recover well:
- Gradually increase how much you walk over the first few days
- Regular exercise should help you return to normal activities
- Don't do any strenuous exercise for 3 weeks
- You don't need to avoid heavy lifting, but you may find it uncomfortable to do so in the first 2–4 weeks
- Wait until about 2 days after your procedure before you shower, removing any dressings beforehand – it's okay to let the little pieces of tape (steri-strips) get wet and these will start to peel off around a week afterwards
- Don't bathe or use pools or hot tubs for 2 weeks after surgery.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, let the healthcare team know straightaway as it can be a sign you have a serious complication.
- Pain that gets worse over time or is severe when you move, breathe or cough
- A high temperature or fever
- Dizziness, feeling faint or shortness of breath
- Feeling sick or not having an appetite, which gets worse after the first 1–2 days
- Not opening your bowels and not passing wind
- Swelling in your abdomen
- Difficulty passing urine.
Time off work after laparoscopic groin hernia repair
You should be able to return to work after 1–2 weeks, depending on your type of work and how you feel.
Complications of laparoscopic groin hernia repair
As with any operation, there’s a small chance of complications, such as:
- infection in a surgical wound
- blood clots
- unsightly scarring.
Specific complications of laparoscopic hernia repair include:
- damage to internal organs
- injury to the bowel
- developing a lump at the site of the original hernia
- men – discomfort or pain in the testicle on the side of the operation
- men – damage to the blood supply of the testicles
- difficulty passing urine.
The healthcare team will do their best to minimise any risks. Make sure you discuss any concerns you have about these complications with your consultant.
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