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Hernia and Abdominal Wall Repair

The Hernia and Abdominal Wall Repair Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center offers a full range of services, including imaging, diagnosis, medical management, noninvasive slings and treatments, open surgery, and laparoscopic procedures. Our surgeons take a team approach, working with specialists from other disciplines to provide comprehensive care.

Collaborative Care to Ensure the Best Outcomes

A hernia occurs when part of an internal organ bulges through a weakened muscle, tissue, or membrane that normally contains it. Surgeons repair hernias by pushing the displaced tissue back into place and using surgical mesh or stitches to close the opening.

Our Hernia and Abdominal Wall Repair Program brings together experts in general surgery; imaging and radiology; internal medicine; pediatrics; and plastic, gastrointestinal, and endocrine surgery. Our team approach provides the coordinated expertise needed for accurate diagnosis and surgical repair.

The team works with UT Southwestern physicians in other fields to manage commonly associated risk factors such as obesity, diabetesrespiratory insufficiency, steroids, wound contamination, smoking, and inherited disorders such as Marfan syndrome.

Conditions We Treat with Hernia and Abdominal Wall Repair

Men and women of all ages can develop hernias, which usually result from a combination of muscle weakness and strain. Though 80 percent of all hernias occur near the groin, they can also develop below the groin, through the navel, and along a previous incision.

Our medical professionals evaluate and treat several hernia and abdominal wall conditions:

  • Blockages and strangulations, in which blood flow to the herniated tissue is cut off, creating a potentially life-threatening condition
  • Congenital and acquired hernias in children and adults, such as incisional, ventral, epigastric, and umbilical
  • Incarcerated hernias, a rare condition in which the protruding tissue cannot easily be returned to its proper position

Evaluation Before Hernia and Abdominal Wall Repair

Patients usually come in for an assessment by the entire team in a coordinated visit. Often we can schedule all testing and imaging services in a centralized location during the same appointment, reducing unnecessary visits.

Our doctors begin with a physical exam to determine whether patients have a hernia and, if so, where it is located. In some cases, patients might need additional imaging, such as:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan using specialized X-ray technology that takes cross-sectional images to produce 3D images of the abdomen to pinpoint a hernia
  • Ultrasound using sound waves to produce images of the abdomen to locate a hernia
  • X-ray to produce images of the abdomen to assess blockages in the bowel

Options for Hernia and Abdominal Wall Repair

Our surgeons look at multiple factors in recommending the best surgical approach for each patient. We consider each patient’s overall health, any previous surgeries, ability to heal, and the size of the hernia. UT Southwestern surgeons have experience with all three main surgical approaches:

  • Primary repair: Sutures placed in the abdomen to close the hernia opening
  • Mesh repair: Prosthetic or biologic mesh to repair openings that are too large for a primary technique
  • Complex hernia and abdominal wall repair: Combination of primary and mesh repair techniques, which can include tissue expansion and free-tissue transfer

Our surgeons are experienced in minimally invasive surgical techniques for hernia and abdominal wall repair, such as:

  • Laparoscopic surgery: Laparoscopy uses a laparoscope (thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera) inserted through a small incision to perform surgery. The surgeon inserts small instruments through other small incisions to access the treatment area.
  • Robotic surgery: Using a computerized system, the surgeon controls mechanical arms that hold a camera and surgical instruments to perform laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon uses a console that provides a high-definition, magnified 3D view of the surgical site. The robotic arms have a greater range of motion than human hands and wrists, providing greater flexibility for complex, delicate procedures.

At UT Southwestern, our surgeons also:

  • Correct genetic and inherited abdominal wall defects in infants and children, make cosmetic repairs, and emend the results of unsuccessful procedures done elsewhere
  • Treat abdominal walls weakened by injury, accident, prior surgery, pregnancy, or other causes
  • Provide coordinated rehabilitation, follow-up care, and support for each patient
  • Communicate and coordinate care with each patient’s referring physician

Related Conditions and Treatments

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