A hernia is a weakness in the abdominal wall. When straining or coughing the pressure in the abdomen rises and abdominal contents can bulge through the weak area. The most common site for a hernia is the groin (inguinal or femoral hernia) with umbilical and incisional hernia (at the site of previous surgery) also common.

A hernia may result in very few symptoms or it may cause discomfort from the bulging. On rare occasions a loop of intestine may become trapped in a hernia and result in obstruction or strangulation of the bowel – this is an emergency and requires prompt surgery.

A hernia will usually require surgery to fix it. Surgery involves returning any bulging contents to the abdominal cavity and repairing the weakness usually with a piece of mesh. Laparoscopic (keyhole) or open operations are possible and the ideal procedure will depend on individual circumstances.

Photo: Eugene Hyland, Newspix

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