What are the complications of surgery for inguinal hernia?

Surgery to repair an inguinal hernia is typically quite safe and complications are uncommon. Knowing possible risks allows patients to report postoperative symptoms to their doctor as soon as they occur.

Risk of general anesthesia. Before surgery, the anesthesiologist—a doctor who administers anesthesia—reviews the risks of anesthesia with the patient and asks about medical history and allergies to medications. Complications most likely occur in older people and those with other medical conditions. Common complications include nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, sore throat, and headache. More serious problems include heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, and blood clots in the legs. The more severe anesthetic complications typically have more to due with the general health of the patient going in to surgery and not a reflection of they type of anesthesia uses.

Getting out of bed after surgery and moving as soon as the doctor allows will help reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia and blood clots.

Hernia recurrence. A hernia can recur up to several years after repair. Recurrence is a common complication of inguinal hernia repair, causing patients to undergo a second operation. Hernia recurrence occurs less often when mesh is utilized. There are specific factors that make recurrent hernias more likely and they vary from patient to patient.  Some include: obesity, work habits, coughing, smoking and steroid use.

Bleeding. Bleeding inside the incision is another complication of inguinal hernia repair. The most typical finding is some bruising around the pubic bone, scrotum and penis that shows up two or three days after the operation. In rare cases severe swelling and bluish discoloration of the skin around the incision. This is more typically associated with open or non-laparosocpic repairs. Surgery may be necessary to open the incision and stop the bleeding. Bleeding is unusual and occurs in less than 2 percent of patients.1

Wound infection. The risk of wound infection is small—less than 2 percent—and is more likely to occur in older adults and people who undergo more complex hernia repair.  The person may experience a fever, discharge of fluids from the incision, and redness, swelling, or tenderness around the incision. Postoperative infection requires antibiotics and, occasionally, another procedure requiring local anesthesia to make a small opening in the incision and drain the infection. In extensive cases the mesh may need to be removed to promote full recovery.

Painful scar. Sometimes people experience sharp, tingling pain in a specific area near the incision after it has healed. The pain usually resolves with time. Medicine may be injected in the area if the pain continues. This is more associated with the “open” type repairs.

Injury to internal organs. Although extremely rare, injury to the intestine, bladder, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels leading to the legs, internal female organs, and vas deferens—the tube that carries sperm—can occur during hernia surgery and may lead to more operations

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