What is an inguinal hernia?

An inguinal hernia is a lump in the inguinal region (in the groin area) which is usually more prominent when the patient coughs or stands. In some cases pain is also experienced. Inguinal hernias usually develop as a result of a weak place in the tissue of the inguinal region and may occur on either or both sides of the body.

Hernia types

Uncomplicated hernia

This type of hernia can be reduced by manipulation or may reduce by itself. It appears when extra pressure is applied to the inguinal area, i.e. when coughing.

Irreducible hernia

This hernia cannot be reduced by manipulation nor does it reduce spontaneously. In most cases an obstruction will not be caused.

Incarcerated hernia

This type of hernia does not reduce spontaneously. The contents of the intestine are usually constricted. In most cases there is a history of obstruction.

Strangulated hernia

This is a more acute type of hernia that does not reduce spontaneously. The neck of the sac containing the bowel is so constricted that the blood circulation is impeded. Immediate treatment is necessary.

Abdominal hernia (Richter obstruction)

In this case a section of the intestinal wall is constricted most of the time. Normally there is no total obstruction. The main blood supply to the intestine is not restricted. The small intestine is partially protruded.

Sliding hernia (reducible hernia)

This occurs when the contents of the hernia form part of the hernia sac.


This condition is more prevalent among males than females.

  • Patients complain of a dull or acute pain in the inguinal region
  • A lump occurs in the inguinal region and stays or disappears when the patient lies down


  • The patient is usually referred to a general surgeon. The surgeon will diagnose which type of hernia the patient has and how acute it is. The surgeon will then schedule a date for the operation
  • The patient will be admitted to a hospital on the day of the operation
  • The patient may not eat or drink anything for six hours prior to the operation
  • The operation is normally done under general anaesthesia
  • The patient will stay in hospital for approximately three to four days
  • On the second day the patient may take small sips of water and thereafter clear fluids. A normal diet may gradually be introduced
  • The treatment depends on the type of hernia and your surgeon’s routine
  • In certain hernia operations the doctor will discuss the possibility of inserting mesh if the muscles of the abdominal wall are very weak

Discharge and home care

  • The wound is normally covered with a type of dressing which will enable the patient to bath or shower
  • No heavy objects may be lifted for approximately four to six weeks after the operation – thereby enabling the muscles to heal
  • The patient may not drive a motor vehicle for three to four weeks