Overview

About our services

At UW Health, we provide the most advanced care for hernias and hernia repair in the area.

Our surgeons are experts in minimally invasive surgical hernia repairs, especially for highly complex and repeat hernia repairs. We work to provide you with a personalized care plan that gets you back to your everyday activities as quickly as possible. 

Meet our team

Expert, personalized care

To create your personalized care plan, we start by asking questions about your work, your hobbies and your everyday activities. The result is a treatment plan for your specific condition and lifestyle goals.

If you work a job that involves heavy labor or regularly play sports, we’ll create a treatment plan that ensures strong, reinforced abdominal muscles. If you want to enjoy gardening and time with your grandkids, a less-aggressive procedure that uses mesh to reinforce the weakened muscles might be a better option.

When you come to UW Health for hernia treatment, we stay by your side through surgery and recovery. And we do everything we can to help you return to your regular activities.

Symptoms and diagnosis

What causes a hernia?

A hernia can cause discomfort, pain or a visible lump. Hernias develop at a weak spot or opening in the muscles or tissues. This allows organs or other tissues to bulge through. Hernias may develop over time or form after an injury or surgery.

 Common causes of hernia include: 

  • Chronic coughing

  • Constipation

  • Heavy labor or strenuous exercise

  • Obesity

  • Pregnancy

  • Sports injury

  • Surgical incisions that weaken muscles

A hernia can also be caused by a condition present at birth or as the result of aging.

Is it a hernia?

Many hernias do not cause symptoms. Others are noticeable as a protruding lump. Some common hernia symptoms include:

  • Change in hernia appearance when bending, coughing or lying down

  • Pain or discomfort around the hernia site



How doctors diagnose a hernia

To diagnose a hernia, your doctor will talk with you about your symptoms, medical history and perform a physical exam. If your doctor suspects a hernia, they may order imaging tests to see what’s happening inside your body.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests may include: 

Uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the structures inside the body

Combines X-rays with computer technology to produce images

Uses a combination of strong magnets and radio waves to create images

Other tests

Hiatal hernias, which impact your stomach, may cause chest pain, heartburn and trouble swallowing. If a hiatal hernia is possible, other tests may include:

A series of X-ray images taken after you drink a liquid solution that makes your digestive tract easier to see.

Uses a small camera fixed to a thin, flexible tube that moves down your throat and into your esophagus and stomach

Types of hernias

The most common hernias occur in the abdominal wall. But they can appear in other parts of the body, including the diaphragm, groin and upper thigh.

Complex hernias occur with a damaged abdominal wall and a hernia located in the lower abdomen, the back of the abdomen or at the end of the sternum and other complications, such as a previous incision or hernia repair.

Epigastric hernias form in the upper abdomen between the breastbone and the belly button.

Femoral hernias occur in the upper thigh.

Flank or lumbar hernias happen on the back or side of the abdominal wall.

Hiatal hernias involve the lower esophagus and stomach sliding up through an opening in the diaphragm.

Incisional hernias form at the site of an incision.

Inguinal hernias occur in the groin.

Large, loss-of-domain hernias occur at a previous surgery site and create a major defect in the abdominal wall, causing displacement of most abdominal contents.

Obturator hernias involve the pelvic floor.

Recurrent hernias occur when an original hernia repair is unsuccessful.

Umbilical hernias form at the belly button.

Ventral hernias form when tissue pushes through openings in the abdominal wall.

Treatments and research

How are hernias treated?

Hernias do not go away on their own. At UW Health, we find the right treatment for you. We know that no one type of repair works for everyone.

We use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible so that you recover faster, with less pain. With these techniques, your surgeon will make tiny incisions to insert small surgical instruments to repair your hernia. Many hernia repairs are outpatient procedures, meaning you don’t have to stay in the hospital overnight.

Hernia treatments

Hernia treatments include:

Closes a hole between the lower abdominal wall and the groin with synthetic mesh.

Puts the stomach and esophagus back into place and closes the opening in the diaphragm. If the hole in the diaphragm is large, mesh may be used.

Repair fixes an abdominal hernia at the site of a past surgical repair. Excess fat and scar tissue are removed. Synthetic mesh is placed on weak areas of abdominal muscles to reinforce them.

  • Endoscopic component separation is a minimally invasive approach that separates the abdominal layers during reconstruction.

  • Progressive pneumoperitoneum for loss of domain is a pre-operative technique that expands the abdomen cavity with air in small doses over a few days, providing space to put the abdominal contents back into place. This also decreases tension on abdominal tissues, promoting wound healing and reduced complications.

We also treat groin pain related to post-hernia repair and sports hernias.

Prevention

Help prevent hernias

You can make lifestyle changes and be aware of the risks to help prevent a hernia.

  • Avoid lifting weights and other items that are too heavy for you

  • Don’t strain during a bowel movement or urination

  • Eat high fiber foods to prevent constipation

  • Exercise often, and perform moves to strengthen your abdominal muscles

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • See your doctor when you’re sick to avoid getting a persistent cough

  • Stop smoking

Locations

Comprehensive hernia care

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  • University Hospital - Comprehensive Hernia Center
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 440-6363
    • Open now
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  • UW Health at The American Center - Comprehensive Hernia Center
    • 4602 Eastpark Blvd. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 440-6363
    • Open now
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  • American Family Children's Hospital - Pediatric General Surgery
    • 1675 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-6420
    • Open now
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