An epigastric hernia occurs when tissue pushes through the inner layers of the abdominal wall, causing a bulge or tear. The hernias can be present at birth (congenital) or acquired. The bulge is usually positioned between the belly button and chest.
With most epigastric hernias, both organ tissue and fatty tissue push through the abdominal muscle wall. In minor cases, epigastric hernias don’t cause symptoms. Many go undiagnosed and are only discovered during testing for entirely different medical issues. In severe cases, the hernias can cause life-threatening complications.
The recommended treatment for an epigastric hernia is laparoscopic surgery.
What are the Symptoms of an Epigastric Hernia?
Epigastric hernias seem to come and go at will. This tendency to appear and disappear gives epigastric hernias their nickname: Reducible hernia. The bulge may not be noticeable unless you are having a bowel movement, crying, or engaging in an activity that puts pressure on the abdomen.
A physical exam can usually diagnose an epigastric hernia, while others require advanced imaging technology.
When Should You See a Doctor for an Epigastric Hernia?
An epigastric hernia will not heal on its own. Only surgery can repair the condition. In children, surgery can be postponed until the child reaches an older age. For adults, it’s common to be diagnosed with an epigastric hernia that originated earlier in life. The hernia may have been present for years without you being aware of it. For many, these hernias produce no symptoms until later in life.
Certain conditions and factors can produce epigastric hernia symptoms, such as obesity, strain, and muscle weakness.
You should see a doctor immediately about your epigastric hernia if the tissue protruding through your ab wall gets stuck in an “out” position. Doctors refer to this as an incarcerated hernia. This means the tissue is trapped within the abdominal wall. When this happens, you are at risk for tissue strangulation. That means the intestinal tissue poking through the muscle wall is cut off from its blood supply. Emergency surgery is needed at this stage.
How is Epigastric Hernia Surgery Performed?
Epigastric hernia surgery is performed under general anesthesia. The procedure can be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Once the anesthesia has taken effect, small incisions are made on either side of the hernia treatment site. The hernia is repaired laparoscopically, which involves serpentine tools that allow Dr. Moeinolmolki to repair your hernia without opening your abdominal cavity. The meticulous surgical techniques are performed while Dr. Moein views the results on a nearby monitor.
Using the laparoscopic camera and associated tools, Dr. Moein isolates the portion of the abdominal lining that is protruding through the muscle. This “hernia sac” is returned to its proper position before the muscle is stitched closed. Larger holes in the abdominal wall may require a piece of mesh to further strengthen the muscle and prevent future occurrences.
What is Recovery Like After an Epigastric Hernia?
Most patients undergoing epigastric hernia surgery can return to their usual routine within six weeks. Your abdomen may feel tender for a week or two. You will want to protect the incision site during recovery, especially when coughing, sneezing, standing, crying, vomiting, and having bowel movements.
Want to Learn More About Epigastric Hernia Surgery?
A hernia can cause complications over time. Instead of waiting, get an official diagnosis and find out if you are a viable candidate for hernia repair surgery. Call Healthy Life Bariatrics, home of world-class general surgeon Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki, and schedule a consultation – (310)694-4486.