General and Gastrointestinal Surgery

Ventral Hernia

A ventral hernia, a bulge or tear in the weakened abdominal muscle, usually occurs at the site of a previous surgical incision above the umbilicus (belly button) or within the umbilicus itself. Similar to an inner tube pushing through the surface of a damaged tire, the abdominal lining and/or abdominal contents break through the abdominal wall, resulting in a bubble-like mass under the skin.

An estimated 90,000-100,000 ventral hernia repairs are performed annually in the United States. Certain risk factors that increase the chances of developing an incisional ventral hernia include obesity, diabetes, lung disease, smoking, wound contamination, steroid use and certain inherited disorders.

Ventral hernias do not get better with time, making surgery the only option. Laparoscopic ventral hernia repair has been developed over the past decade to provide a viable alternative to the traditional "open" method. Using the laparoscopic technique, a large piece of prosthetic mesh is placed under the hernia and anchored into place through incisions usually measuring less than one centimeter. Advantages of laparoscopic ventral hernia repair include less post-operative pain, shortened hospital stay, reduced risk of infection and recurrence, and faster return to normal activity.

Through a consultation with one of The Miriam Hospital's trained specialists, you can determine whether or not laparoscopic ventral hernia repair is your best course of action. In a small number of patients, this technique is not feasible because of inability to visualize and/or manipulate the organs involved. Other factors that may prevent a laparoscopic procedure include obesity, a history of prior abdominal surgery resulting in dense scar tissue, and certain underlying medical conditions.