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:
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 steel mesh or wire.
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.