Ventral hernias are repaired by surgery. Without treatment, most hernias will increase in size.
An untreated hernia may also result in intestinal blockage and "strangulation," which requires immediate medical attention. Strangulation occurs when the blood supply to the herniated bowel is cut off or greatly reduced, causing the bowel tissue to die or rupture.
Surgical repair of ventral hernias is a complicated, major procedure. Extremely large ventral hernias require a procedure called progressive pneumoperitoneum.
In this approach, surgeons use a laparoscope, a tiny telescope with a television camera attached, to view the hernia from the inside. The laparoscope is placed inside a cannula, or small, hollow tube, which is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision.
In most cases, three or four incisions of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in size are made to insert the cannula, instruments used to remove any scar tissue and a special mesh. The mesh is placed behind the abdominal muscles instead of between the muscles. It is held in place by surgical tacks or sutures.
This procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia. Bladder catheterization is required.
Compared to traditional hernia surgery, laparoscopic repair includes less post-surgery pain, less wound numbness and an earlier return to work and normal activities.
At UCSF Medical Center, ventral hernias are treated by specialists in the Complex Abdominal Surgery Program.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.