A person need not to have had a hernia to know they are painful – you need only to know what one is to imagine the pain. A hernia, or more specifically, an inguinal hernia, is when soft tissue bulges through a weak part of your abdominal wall. When this happens, a person would likely expect surgery, and as a result of that surgery, one would hope would come relief. Sadly, that isn’t always the case.
Inguinal hernia repair is common, with some 800,000 surges performed in the United States alone each year. And after, most patients begin to feel better usually within a few weeks. However, some patients end up with chronic groin pain. It can last for months and is sometimes quite debilitating. It may even interfere with sitting or walking, says general surgeon David Krpata, MD.
According to Dr. Krpata, one of two issues causes pain following repair surgery:
Reaction to the mesh itself – Sometimes the mesh used in hernia repair can cause inflammation or irritation leading to pain. This may happen because your body recognizes the mesh as a foreign object or the mesh rubs against muscles or nerves, causing irritation.
Nerve disturbance – There are three major nerves that run through the abdominal area, Dr. Krpata says. If one of the nerves gets caught in a suture or the mesh, chronic pain can result.
If you have had surgery and are still experiencing pain after three months, then it is time to speak to your surgeon, says Dr. Krpata.
Some of the options that they may suggest include:
Mesh removal — surgical removal of the abdominal mesh
Neurectomy — surgical removal of a nerve or part of a nerve
PRP injections — injection of a plasma-rich protein complex to promote healing and ease nerve pain
Nerve ablation — a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical currents to dampen nerve pain
Pain management through medication or anesthetic injections
“While injections, nerve ablation and medication can help ease pain, they don’t do much to help the underlying issue,” Dr. Krpata says.
However, what happens if your surgeon doesn’t have any viable options for pain relief? According to Dr. Krpata, if this happens it means it is time for a second opinion.
“We see patients with chronic pain after hernia repair surgery and often the option to have additional surgery isn’t even presented to them,” he says. “While additional surgery isn’t the right choice for everyone, for some, mesh removal or neurectomy procedures can provide significant or complete relief from chronic pain.”
If you or someone yo know is experiencing chronic pain following a hernia surgery, we encourage you to speak to a medical professional for a thorough evaluation. After all, nobody should have to live in pain.