What is a hernia?

A hernia happens when an organ pushes through an opening in the abdominal wall, diaphragm, belly button or groin. While they are often not life-threatening conditions, they can be very uncomfortable and negatively impact quality of life. Hernias also cannot go away without treatment.

There are many different types of hernia

  • Inguinal or femoral – intestine or bladder pushing through the core in the inguinal canal of the groin
  • Ventral, including:
    • Incisional – intestine pushing through the core at a weak spot caused by previous surgery in the abdomen
    • Umbilical – intestine pushing through the core at the belly button
    • Epigastric – weakening or hole above the belly button at the base of the rib cage
    • Parastomal – weakening around an ostomy allowing intestine to push alongside the ostomy
  • Hiatal – upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm

What causes a hernia?

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Hernias occur when there is a muscle weakness that allows the intestine (or even other organs) to push through the abdominal core. This can happen for many reasons, including:

  • Previous operation creating a weakness
  • Heavy lifting (typically with incorrect form)
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Long-term coughing or sneezing

Abdominal muscle weakness can also be present at birth, but not cause problems until later in life.

How is a hernia diagnosed?

In many cases, a physician or nurse practitioner will be able to actually feel the hernia while performing a physical exam. If the hernia is not detectable by touch, the physician or nurse practitioner may order an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.

Hernia symptoms

While each type of hernia can have different symptoms, most commonly patients experience:

  • Pain/discomfort in the area of the hernia
  • A heavy feeling or pressure in the abdomen
  • A detectable bulge in the affected area
Hernia treatment options

Hernia treatment options

If the hernia is not causing acute health issues, or inhibiting quality of life, it can sometimes be monitored for change without having surgery.

However, surgical intervention is often needed to treat hernias, especially when the symptoms impact your quality of life. Ohio State provides a variety of surgical options, including minimally-invasive and robotic procedures and complex abdominal wall (core) reconstructions.

Why choose Ohio State?

  • We treat hernias effectively the first time—or we can repair damage from previous operations.
  • We develop a personalized care plan, providing the best treatment options for you that will improve your quality of life. Ohio State Wexner Medical Center helped develop and is the first health center in the nation to adopt the formal rehabilitation protocol for abdominal core surgery issued by the Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative (ACHQC), a national quality improvement effort in hernia surgery.
  • We also serve as a data coordination center for the ACHQC to improve hernia treatment worldwide.
  • Because we’re part of one of the nation’s largest academic health centers, we can collaborate with nearly any kind of specialist to personalize a treatment plan that suits each patient’s unique condition and individual goals.
  • Our team also conducts ongoing research, so patients can participate in studies that include innovative treatment options.

Browse videos from our experts

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What is a hernia?

A hernia happens when an organ pushes through an opening in the abdominal wall, diaphragm, belly button or groin.

What is abdominal core health?

Jeffrey Janis, MD, co-director of the Center for Abdominal Core Health, explains the new concept of abdominal core health and how it connects to overall gastrointestinal health.

Why choose Ohio State for hernia care?

Benjamin Poulose, MD, a general surgeon specializing in hernia repair and abdominal core health, explains the high-quality hernia care at Ohio State.

What to expect for your abdominal wall surgery

Jeffrey Janis, MD, co-director of the Center for Abdominal Core Health, explains what you can expect during your abdominal wall reconstruction surgery and the recovery process afterward. 
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