Complex Abdominal Hernia

Comprehensive care for complex hernias

A complex abdominal hernia is difficult to close because of past surgeries or complications, such as small bowel obstruction, infection or if the intestine becomes trapped or choked. A complex hernia could also occur when another organ, such as the appendix, ovaries or spleen, comes through the abdominal wall.

A complex hernia may be caused by:

  • Aging
  • Anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Congenital defect
  • Excessive abdominal pressure after surgery
  • Excessive corticosteroid use
  • Multiple hernia surgeries
  • Obesity
  • Poor hernia repair
  • Smoking
  • Thinning or weakening of the previous surgical area
  • Wound infection

Types of complex hernias and related complications treated at Penn State Health include:

  • Abdominal wall masses
  • Femoral hernia
  • Flank hernias
  • Post-transplant hernias
  • Hiatal hernias
  • Incisional hernias
  • Inguinal hernia
  • Inguinal pain
  • Internal hernias
  • Loss of domain hernias
  • Mesh complications (pain, infection, erosion)
  • Obturator hernias
  • Paraduodenal hernias
  • Parastomal hernia
  • Post-traumatic hernias
  • Recurrent hernias
  • Special pediatric hernias
  • Spigelian hernias
  • Thoracoabdominal hernia
  • Ventral hernias

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of a complex abdominal hernia include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Previous hernia repair
  • Redness, pain or hardness of the hernia
  • Vomiting

To diagnose an abdominal hernia, we may perform the following tests:

  • Ultrasound – a sound wave imaging device is placed on the stomach to look at the structure of your abdomen and pelvic organs
  • Computerized tomography (CT) – after you drink a contrasting liquid, a radiologist looks at the structure of your abdomen and pelvic organs in a CT scanner
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – a radiologist uses an MRI scan to detect any small tears in the abdominal muscles

Our physicians have decades of experience with complex hernias. Our comprehensive preoperative program is designed to reduce the risk of hernia recurrence and other postoperative complications like infection. We will work with you and your primary care physician before surgery to help you with smoking cessation, weight loss or other chronic health issues that may make the success of a hernia surgery difficult. Our goal is to help you recover quickly and improve your quality of life.

Experts in Care

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Experienced Minimally Invasive Surgeons

The abdominal hernia experts at Penn State Health use innovative hernia repair techniques, including robotic-assisted surgery. Our physicians are fellowship-trained in robotic, minimally invasive and open methods of hernia repair. They specialize in managing hernia-related complications such as pain, mesh infection and recurrent hernias. During surgery, our experience allows us to choose the best way to repair your hernia. Surgical methods may include non-mesh-based repairs, permanent synthetic meshes, biologic meshes and bioabsorbable meshes.

Our surgeons are national leaders in hernia repair methods and offer a visiting surgeon program to teach other surgeons about our innovative surgical techniques. We participate in the Americas Hernia Society Quality Collaborative, to track and understand the results of every hernia surgery we perform.

Types of surgical repairs we perform include:

  • Component separation
  • eTEP
  • Hybrid
  • Laparoscopic
  • Mesh excision
  • Non-mesh repairs (when applicable)
  • Open
  • Robotic-assisted
  • Transversus aqbdominis release

A Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Team Approach

We offer a comprehensive, personalized approach to hernia repair. We recognize that no two hernias and no two hernia repairs are the same. Because we have such a broad array of techniques, meshes and experience, we can offer patients the right repair at the right time.

The comprehensive care at Penn State Health includes interaction with many specialties who are part of our hernia clinic, including:

  • Endocrinology specialists
  • Infectious disease specialists
  • Pain management specialists
  • Smoking cessation counseling
  • Weight loss specialists (surgical and medical)

Recognized Leaders in Gastroenterology

As the only university-affiliated health system in central Pennsylvania, we offer some of the latest treatments backed by clinical research and medical innovation. Our providers have unmatched expertise in a wide range of conditions and extensive experience in caring for people with digestive disorders. You can get leading-edge care right here.

These are a few reasons why families choose us:

  • We perform more minimally invasive surgeries than any other gastroenterology group in central Pennsylvania, including laparoscopic, single-site and robotic-assisted surgery.
  • Our digestive health experts perform leading-edge endoscopic approaches, which use a scope, camera and tiny instruments, to diagnose and treat many conditions without surgery.
  • We use advanced technology to enhance safety and precision. Our surgical SUPERSUITE® integrates imaging, robotics and precision instrumentation into a complete system that allows surgeons to provide safer, more efficient care.

Support Groups

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Convenient Locations

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