A ventral hernia is a defect in the abdominal wall which allows the protrusion of the contents of the abdominal cavity.
When this protrusion is through a previous surgical scar over the abdominal wall, it is called an incisional hernia.
After surgery, the surgical wound heals but can never recover to its original strength. There is a weakening of the layers of muscle and fibrous tissues of the wound and if the weakening is severe enough, this may lead to the formation of an incisional hernia.
It is often first noticed as a painless lump over the abdomen that is more evident in an upright position and disappears on lying down. It is usually not painful. However, when the pain is severe, this may indicate a serious complication where the intestines that protrude through the defect become deprived of blood supply. Equally ominous is distension of the abdomen accompanied by vomiting, as this mean the intestines that protrude through the defect have become obstructed.
It is advisable to seek medical attention whenever a ventral or incisional hernia is suspected. Surgery is usually advisable to prevent the serious complications of strangulation or obstruction.
The treatment for ventral/ incisional hernia is surgery. This can either be performed through an incision over the previous surgical scar, or directly over the hernia; or with keyhole surgery using much smaller incisions.
Whilst not completely preventable, constipation, straining when passing urine, carrying heavy weights or a chronic cough may aggravate the condition.
If you have had a recent operation in your abdominal area, avoid carrying heavy objects for about 6 months, to prevent unnecessary strain on your wound.