A type of hernia that extends into the inguinal region of the body. An inguinal hernia occurs in the groin—the area between the abdomen and thigh. It is called inguinal because part of the intestine slides through a weak area at the inguinal canal. It appears as a bulge on one or both sides of the groin.
There are two main types of inguinal hernias, indirect and direct. Indirect inguinal hernias are congenital hernias, that are much more common in males. Direct inguinal hernias are caused by connective tissue degeneration of the abdominal muscles, which causes weakening of the muscles during the adult years. It develops gradually because of continuous stress on the muscles.
Symptoms of inguinal hernia include a small bulge in one or both sides of the groin, discomfort or sharp pain when straining, lifting, or exercising and a burning or aching feeling at the site of the bulge.
Adults who have severe inguinal hernias (ones that enlarge) are treated surgically. In infants and children, inguinal hernias are always operated on to prevent incarceration from occurring. The two main types of surgery for hernias include:
- “Open” hernia repair. In open hernia repair, the surgeon makes an incision in the groin, moves the hernia back into the abdomen, and reinforces the muscle wall with stitches. Usually the area of muscle weakness is reinforced with a synthetic mesh or screen to provide additional support.
- Laparoscopy. The surgeon makes several small incisions in the lower abdomen and inserts a laparoscope—a thin tube with a tiny video camera attached to one end. While viewing the hernia on a monitor, the surgeon uses instruments to carefully repair it using synthetic mesh.