A ventral / incisional hernia is a defect in the abdominal wall which allows the protrusion of the covering or contents (fat apron or intestines) of the abdominal cavity. When this protrusion is through a previous surgical scar over the abdominal wall, it is called an incisional hernia.
This is caused by the weakening of the layers of muscle and tough fibrous tissues that form the abdominal wall. A surgical wound can never recover complete strength compared to before surgery. If the degree of 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; at most a mild ache may be felt. However, when the pain is severe, this may indicate a serious complication of the condition whereby the intestines that protrude through the defect become deprived of blood supply. Equally ominous is distension of the abdomen accompanied by vomiting, as this may represent another complication of the condition whereby the intestines that protrude through the defect become obstructed.
It is advisable to seek medical attention whenever a ventral hernia/ incisional hernia is suspected or found. Though the individual may not experience much discomfort, surgery is usually advisable to prevent the serious complications of the condition from happening.
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. In some cases however, the surgery may be delayed if the risk of recurrence is deemed to be high and outweighs the risk of complications arising from the hernia itself (for example when the patient is overweight and the hernia defect is wide).
Whilst not completely preventable, constipation, straining when passing urine, carrying heavy weights or a chronic cough may aggravate the condition.
Another thing to note, especially if you have had a recent operation in your abdominal area, is not to carry heavy things for about 6 months, so as not to cause unnecessary strain on your wound.