Having Hernia Surgery: Traditional Repair

Skin with open incision showing defect in muscle being stitched with surgical needle.

Surgery treats a hernia by repairing the weakness in the abdominal wall. A cut (incision) is made so the surgeon has a direct view of the hernia. The repair is then done through this incision. This is called open surgery. To fix the problem, muscle and connective tissue may be sewn together to make a “traditional repair.”

Follow your healthcare provider’s advice on how to get ready for the procedure. You can usually go home the same day as your surgery. In some cases, though, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

Getting ready for surgery

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about preparing for surgery. Follow all the instructions you’re given and be sure to: 

  • Tell your healthcare provider about any medicines, supplements, or herbs you take. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter items.

  • Stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and other NSAIDs as directed.

  • Arrange for an adult family member or friend to give you a ride home after surgery.

  • Stop smoking. Smoking affects blood flow and can slow healing.

  • Gently wash the surgical area the night before surgery.

  • Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before surgery.

The day of surgery

Arrive at the hospital or surgical center at your scheduled time. You’ll be asked to change into a patient gown. You’ll then be given an IV to provide fluids and medicine. Shortly before surgery, an anesthesiologist will talk with you. He or she will explain the types of anesthesia used to prevent pain during surgery. You will have one or more of the following:

  • Monitored sedation to make you relaxed and sleepy

  • Local anesthesia to numb the surgical site

  • Regional anesthesia to numb specific areas of your body

  • General anesthesia to let you sleep during surgery

Risks and complications

Hernia surgery is safe, but does have risks including:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Anesthesia risks

  • Mesh complications

  • Inability to urinate  

  • Numbness or pain in the groin or leg

  • Risk the hernia will recur

  • Damage to the testicles or testicular function

  • Bowel or bladder injury

During the surgery

To make a traditional repair, an incision is made over the hernia. The muscle tissue surrounding the weak area is then sewn together to repair the defect. The incision is closed with stitches, staples, surgical tape, or special glue. This method can be used to repair any type of hernia.

After surgery

When the procedure is over, you’ll be taken to the recovery area to rest. Your blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored. You’ll also have a bandage over the surgical site. To help reduce discomfort, you’ll be given pain medicines. You may also be given breathing exercises to keep your lungs clear. Later, you’ll be asked to get up and walk. This helps prevent blood clots in the legs. You can go home when your healthcare provider says you’re ready. 

Make sure you understand your aftercare instructions, wound care around the incision, physical restrictions, and when to follow up with the surgeon for a postoperative checkup. The most important restriction is no heavy lifting for several weeks following the surgery.