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Hernia Basics

Dr. Jacob Greenberg, medical director of the UW Health Comprehensive Hernia Center, discusses types and treatments for herniasMadison, Wisconsin – Almost one in four men will develop a hernia at some point in their lives, and hernia repair is one of the most common procedures performed in the United States. In fact, UW Health surgeons perform nearly 500 hernia operations each year, and specialize in tailoring care to each patient.


"There is no one 'right' repair for everyone," says Jacob Greenberg, MD, Medical Director of the UW Health Comprehensive Hernia Center, which is currently open for patients at both the new UW Health at The American Center on Madison's east side and UW Hospital and Clinics on Highland Ave.


Surgery is the only treatment for hernias, though some people may never undergo a corrective procedure.


"It can be safe to delay surgery, even for long periods of time," says Dr. Greenberg.


Complications, such as strangulation — when part of the intestine or piece of fatty tissue is trapped inside the hernia and loses its blood supply — can occur, but are very rare.


"Most people eventually do undergo a hernia repair, because it will likely cause pain or discomfort at some point," he adds.


Pain and discomfort are some of the symptoms that a hernia may have developed. Patients may also notice either a bulge in the groin or belly button, or at the site of a previous incision.


Types of Hernias


Some hernias, called primary hernias, occur naturally at weak points in the abdominal wall.


Secondary hernias are usually incisional, and occur after a patient has undergone surgery. In those cases, the risk of forming a hernia at the site of the incision is greater because incisional sites never regain full initial strength of the abdominal wall.


The type of hernia can be narrowed down even further by where the hernia occurs. A ventral hernia is often located near the belly button or just above it, while inguinal hernias — the most common type of hernia — are located in the groin.


Recovery time after surgery to repair an incisional, or secondary hernia, can last up to 8 weeks. But many people who undergo repair of an inguinal hernia, which is in the groin area, can return to normal activity within a week or so.




Dr. Greenberg says while hernias are extremely common, there is not much you can do to prevent one. Men are more likely than women to develop a hernia (approximately 23 percent of men will have an inguinal hernia in their life, compared with 3-4 percent of women). And those numbers are rising, in part due to obesity, smoking and other chronic health issues.


The increasing need for repairs inspired Dr. Greenberg to want to expand the UW Health Comprehensive Hernia Center to provide more patient-centered care for those suffering from all types of hernias. Patients are seen by surgeons who are experts in hernia care, and can use a variety of techniques to repair hernias. While many of these repairs can be performed at The American Center, more complex and difficult hernias will still be corrected at UW Hospital and Clinics.


"UW Health is forward-thinking," he says of the new facility. "This is an outstanding resource for the people of Wisconsin and will provide not only comprehensive hernia care, but also experts who can treat complications relating to the hernia and the repairs."

Date Published: 09/18/2015

News tag(s):  jacob a greenberg

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