Ventral Hernia

Definition
A ventral hernia is a type abdominal hernia that usually develops as a birth defect or complication after abdominal surgery. This condition causes a bulge or lump to form in the abdomen after an area in the abdominal wall weakens and tears. Following the tear, abdominal tissue or part of the intestines pushes through to create a hernia. Most physicians will be able to diagnose the presence of a ventral hernia just by looking at a patient’s abdomen. Other cases of a ventral hernia may require a physical examination and CT scan to determine an accurate diagnosis.

Causes
Ventral hernias are usually caused by a tear in the abdominal wall due to an improperly healed incision during abdominal surgery or defect during fetal development. Scar tissue that weakens or thins following an abdominal surgery is often the most common cause of a ventral hernia. According to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, ventral hernias develop as a complication in as many as 30% of individuals who undergo an appendectomy. Hernias may also develop during or after pregnancy or can develop spontaneously in areas where the abdominal wall has weakened due to age or stress.

Risk Factors
Those who have had abdominal surgery are at a higher risk of developing a hernia, and even more so if they increase physical activity or heavy lifting before the incision has fully healed. Pregnancy may also be considered a risk factor. 

Symptoms
Ventral hernia symptoms will occur in the abdominal area and generally include:

  • Sharp pain that occurs with movement, including sneezing or coughing; jogging or running, and lifting heavy objects
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting

Treatment
A ventral hernia usually causes a noticeable bulge in the abdomen, but can also be determined through diagnostic imaging, blood tests, or urinalysis. If abdominal tissue or the intestines are coming through a hernia or there is a risk of this occurring, surgery is generally recommended to repair a hernia. This procedure will include pushing the abdominal tissue or intestines back into place and then repairing the hole in the abdominal wall with a mesh patch to reduce the risk of another hernia forming.  

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