Ventral (Abdominal) Hernia

What is a ventral hernia?

A ventral (abdominal) hernia refers to any protrusion of intestine or other tissue through a weakness or gap in the abdominal wall. Umbilical and incisional hernias are specific types of ventral hernias.

Ventral Hernia Causes

The cause of a ventral hernia can differ depending on its location as well as your medical history, health and personal anatomy. The weakness in the abdominal wall through which the intestine protrudes may be part of your body’s natural formation. It can also result from:

  • Chronic coughing, severe or chronic vomiting

  • Diabetes or other diseases

  • Heavy lifting

  • Injury or obesity

  • Pregnancy

  • Prior surgery

Ventral Hernia Diagnosis 

To identify a ventral hernia, a health care provider may use multiple diagnostic techniques but will begin with a medical history and physical examination. The provider will inquire about and/or look for:

  • Constipation, "narrow" or "thin" stool

  • Lump or protrusion in the abdomen; you may be asked to stand and cough, which increases abdominal pressure and makes the hernia more pronounced and easier to diagnose

  • Nausea, vomiting, fever or rapid heart rate

  • Pain in the abdomen, especially around the protrusion

If the protruding portion of intestine has become trapped (incarcerated) within the abdominal wall, the blood supply to the intestine can get cut off. This may cause further complications such as necrosis (tissue death). If your provider suspects this is the case, additional diagnostics may include:

  • Blood tests to look for infections caused by intestinal blockage or necrosis

  • Ultrasound, MRI, CT or other imaging to check for blockage or actual location of the intestinal protrusion

Ventral Hernia Treatments

Specific treatment for a ventral hernia will be determined by your doctor based on multiple factors such as your general health, anatomy, extent and location of the hernia, and desired level of future physical activity. Treatment will generally consist of one of two types of surgeries:   

Open hernia repair

In this surgical procedure, also known as herniorrhaphy, the surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen above the hernia, pushes any protruding intestine back into the abdomen and repairs the opening in the muscle wall. Sometimes, in a procedure known as hernioplasty, the weak area is repaired and reinforced with mesh.


In this minimally invasive surgical procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions in the lower abdomen and inserts a tubelike instrument equipped with a camera, called a laparoscope, into one of the incisions. The images are displayed on a large monitor that the surgeon uses to guide the operation. Using instruments inserted into the other incisions, the surgeon repairs the hernia with synthetic mesh and sutures or skin glue.

Robotic-assisted repair

Robotic-assisted repair is similar to laparoscopy, but the surgeon operates from a console controlling robotic arms. In this minimally invasive surgical procedure, the hernia contents are returned to their natural position in the abdomen and the muscle wall is repaired and reinforced with mesh.

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