A hernia is defined as the abnormal protrusion (bulge) of an organ or hernial sac outside the cavity that normally contains it. Hernias of the abdominal wall can be congenital such as, for example, certain umbilical hernias or inguinal hernias. They can also be acquired and caused by weakness of the abdominal wall.
Risk factors for hernias are ageing, male gender, chronic constipation or chronic cough (which increases abdominal pressure), smoking, or a history of trauma or surgery.
Manifestations of hernias of the abdominal wall include an abnormal lump or bulge, with or without discomfort or pain. The diagnosis sometimes requires an ultrasound (FR) or a CT scan (FR).
When hernia becomes a medical emergency
Hernias of the abdominal wall do not go away spontaneously: their size can either remain stable or increase. In some situations, complications can occur due to the blockage of digestive contents inside the hernia (> Link to part on intestinal obstruction), for example if a segment of the intestine is «trapped» in the hernial sac. This complication is named incarcerated hernia. This blockage can prevent normal vascularization of the intestinal segment (so-called strangulated hernia), which will then become necrotic and perforate. Therefore, this complication requires urgent surgical management.
INFO + Bowel obstruction