General and Gastrointestinal Surgery

Open Hernia Surgery Recovery FAQ

What can I expect after open hernia surgery?

You will go to the recovery room after your operation.  You will probably have discomfort at the area of surgery.  The more you walk the less stiffness and pain you will experience. You will notice a lump develop in the area of surgery that gets larger for a few days after surgery.  This is called the healing ridge and is normal.  You may also notice some discoloration of your incision.  This is from blood that is left in the tissues and is no cause for concern. It is not uncommon for you to have more discomfort on the second and third day after an open hernia repair than you did on the first.  This is because any local anesthetic used has worn off. By the sixth to seventh day you should be ready for all your normal activities.

What can I expect after laparoscopic hernia surgery?

You will go to the recovery room after your operation. It will feel as if the operation hasn't been done yet, since the time you were asleep will be a blank.  You will have discomfort at the site of the surgery and possibly in your shoulders and chest. The latter is from the gas used to expand your abdomen during the procedure and may last up to 36 hours.  Lying with your feet higher than your head will help to resolve that discomfort.  You may also experience nausea from the anesthesia.  That, too, will resolve within 24 to 36 hours.  After the first 24 to 36 hours you will feel better and better each day.  By the third to fourth day you should be ready for all your normal activities.

When can I resume normal activities after hernia surgery?

With the exception of heavy lifting and vigorous exercise you can resume normal activities, including driving, walking and sexual activity, once you feel you are ready.  Pain is the body's way of letting you know you are doing something you shouldn't. If it hurts don't do it.  Generally, normal activities can be resumed in a few days after laparoscopic hernia repair and a week for open hernia repair.  Under no circumstances should you drive an automobile while you are taking narcotic pain medications.

How long will I be out of work?

In general, you should plan on being out of work for one to two weeks following a  laparoscopic approach and four to six weeks with an open approach.  Please note, you can return to work after either procedure as soon as you are ready.  This can be as early as few days with either approach.  In large part when you return to work will be determined by how big the original hernia was and how difficult it was to repair.  Even if you do return to work early you should not lift anything over 10 pounds nor do any vigorous exercise until you are seen in the office.  You should not drive an automobile until you are not taking narcotic pain medications.  Light exercise, such as golfing or swimming, is fine.  Generally, you will be able to resume normal vigorous exercise and heavy lifting in 4 to 6 weeks. 

What is a recurrent hernia?

As the name implies, a recurrent hernia is one that occurs at the site of a previous hernia repair.  It is a measure by which the efficacy of a hernia repair is judged. Based on statistics for repair of recurrent hernias, it is estimated that the true recurrence rate for hernias is closer to 5% and may be as high as 10%.  A recurrent hernia is not necessarily the fault of the patient or the surgeon.  Some recurrent hernias are totally different from the original one. Others result from a generalized weakness in the tissues.  Some result because of other illnesses the individual has, such as diabetes, that impair wound healing.  Finally, some occur because of heavy lifting or because the original hernia repair was not adequate. In our opinion, it is not worth worrying about to the extent that you modify your future lifestyle to avoid getting one.

Hernias: Patient Recovery Guide »