A hernia is the protrusion of an organ or fatty tissue through the cavity or surrounding muscles that normally contain it. It usually occurs in the abdomen, stomach, or groin areas, and can be caused by an increase in pressure on the abdomen, due to heavy lifting, constipation, persistent coughing, or stress. Other factors such as obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking can weaken muscles to make hernias more likely.
Repair requires surgery, and should be done early to avoid additional, more serious problems. Hernia repair involves pushing the herniating tissue back and reinforcing the wall, typically with some type of synthetic mesh. The use of scopes and smaller incisions is known as laparoscopic hernia repair, as opposed to an 'open' incision over the herniated area.
Hernias are classified into various types: epigastric (occurs on the upper wall of the abdomen), ventral (occurs on the middle wall of the abdomen), umbilical (on the navel), inguinal (on the groin - most common in men), femoral (groin area, typically in women), and hiatal (occurs on the diaphragm, the muscle separating the chest and abdominal cavities).
Incisional hernias occur at the site of the incision of a previous operation, typically abdominal. Both types of groin hernias can occur on a single side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral).