Hernia Repair Overview
Every year, more than half a million hernia repairs are performed in the United States. A hernia occurs when inner layers of abdominal muscle become weakened. The lining of the abdomen then bulges out into a small sac, and part of the intestine or abdominal tissue may enter the sac. Hernias occur most commonly in the groin (inguinal hernia), the navel (umbilical hernia), and at the incision site of a previous surgery.
A hiatal, or diaphragmatic, hernia occurs when the lower part of the esophagus and a portion of the stomach slide up through the esophageal hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes before it reaches the stomach. In a small percentage of cases, the junction of the esophagus and stomach remains in place, but a portion of the stomach rolls up and through the esophageal hiatus alongside the esophagus.
Some people with hernias remain relatively free from symptoms. But a hernia can cause severe pain and other potentially serious problems (e.g., infection, bowel obstruction). Surgery is the only way to repair them, because they do not resolve on their own.