An inguinal hernia is the most common form of hernia.
Inguinal hernia presents as a bulge in the groin or the inguinal region or in the scrotum. This bulge becomes appreciable while coughing, straining or standing; meaning it is not constant but is variable depending on the intra-abdominal pressure. Most times the bulge disappears on lying down and is rarely painful.
An asymptomatic hernia presents as a swelling in the inguinal region with a sense of aching. There is no actual pain or tenderness when examined and it is seen that the swelling increases with the increase in abdominal pressure. These are the usual characteristics of an asymptomatic inguinal hernia . If the hernia does not reduce or cannot be manipulated into the abdomen via the fascial defect, then it could be an incarcerated hernia. It is often associated with nausea, vomiting and may have symptoms of blocked bowels.
When the blood supply to a part of intestines entangled in the hernia are obstructed, then it is termed as strangulated hernia. In such cases the patient presents with the symptoms of incarcerated hernia accompanied with toxic appearance as a result of toxicity caused due to gut ischemia. The patient might present with nausea/vomiting, fever and chills since a bacterial infection might supervene on the ischemic bowels of a strangulated hernia.
The diagnosis is generally made by a thorough physical examination. Usually, laboratory studies are not specific for hernia but some of them can be useful as follows:
These imaging studies become necessary when the patient’s body habitus prevents physical examination.
A hernia truss helps in keeping the reducible inguinal hernia in the abdomen. It does not cure the condition but if the pads are hard and invade the hernial opening they can lead to scarring and widening of the hole. Due to the pressure, the trusses can cause injury to the skin or bowel and conceal the signs of an incarcerated and strangulated hernia. The truss also increases the chances of complications like strangulation, degeneration of the spermatic cord and the fascial margins. It might lead to enlargement of the defect thereby making the repair tough .
Herniorrhaphy: In this procedure, an incision is made in the groin region to push the protruding intestine back into the abdomen. Then the weakened or damaged muscle is sewed or strengthened and supported with the help of a synthetic mesh.
Laparoscopic hernioplasty: This is a less invasive procedure where the operation is done via many tiny incisions on the abdomen. This procedure causes minimal discomfort and scarring. It helps the patient to recover faster. It is a good option for those who suffer from recurrence of the hernia after the traditional hernia surgery as the surgeon can bypass the scar tissue formed due to the prior repair. It is a better option for bilateral inguinal hernia.
Once open surgery is done, the patient can get back to routine activities in a week or two, whereas in case of laparoscopic surgery the recovery is faster. After the surgery, patient should keep away from heavy lifting for few weeks so that the muscle and tissues can recover completely.
Direct inguinal hernias occur due to increased pressure within the abdomen, aging, stress or strain weakening the abdominal muscles around the inguinal canal, exertion during bowel movements, heavy lifting, obesity, pregnancy, chronic coughing and sneezing, prior surgeries over lower abdomen that may weaken abdominal muscles.
Around 10% of the population develops some form of hernia during their life . From about 1 million abdominal hernia repairs, 770,000 cases are of inguinal hernia repair   . A lifetime risk of developing inguinal hernia is more in men i.e. 27% whereas in women is just 3% .
Of all the inguinal hernias 50% are indirect whereas 25% are direct . Indirect inguinal hernias are common in premature babies especially those that are born before 32 weeks of gestation , whereas direct hernias are seen in older patients due to relaxation of the abdominal wall muscles and thinning of the fascia.
Inguinal hernias are divided into two types - direct and indirect.
Direct: This type of hernia generally occurs due to a fault or weakness in the transversalis fascia region of the Hesselbach triangle in the abdomen. This triangle is formed by the inguinal ligament at the base, inferior epigastric arteries on the lateral side and the conjoint tendon medially .
Indirect: The indirect inguinal hernia pursues the tract via the inguinal canal. It is the outcome of a persistent processus vaginalis. Origin of the inguinal canal is within the abdominal cavity, at the opening of the internal inguinal ring, which is nearly midway between the symphysis pubis and the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS). From here it goes down together with the inguinal ligament to the external inguinal ring present on the medial side of inferior epigastric arteries. The contents of hernia go downwards into the scrotal sac through the passage of the testicle   .
Rarely inguinal hernias can be prevented, particularly in younger patients. In adults it might be prevented from occurring or recurring by taking following precautions:
Inguinal hernia is defined as out-pocketing of the contents of the abdominal cavity through the inguinal canal. This protrusion results into a bulge that can be painful especially when one bends over, coughs or lifts heavy objects.
Inguinal hernias can be classified into direct and indirect inguinal hernia depending on the cause of hernia.
Birth defects in the abdominal wall cause direct inguinal hernias while aging and stress or strain that weaken the abdominal muscles leads to indirect inguinal hernia. Both these hernias can be repaired by surgical procedures. If the hernias are left untreated, they may lead to strangulation which is a surgical emergency.
Although hernias are difficult to avoid, but various lifestyle changes like maintaining healthy weight, avoiding crash dieting, high fibre diet, avoid smoking etc can help in recurrence. Wearing truss can help keeping the hernia within the abdomen, but it is not the cure. It gives temporary relief from the symptoms and provides greater confidence while performing any physically demanding activities. Just use them for a short time before surgery.