The term "hernia" is used to describe a condition where an internal organ or body part bulges or pushes through the structure or muscle that contains it. Hernias will never go away or get smaller and must be corrected via surgery to permanently fix them.
Hernias can be defined by where they are in the body and also by whether or not they can be pushed back into the space where the organ or tissue was originally before the hernia.
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A reducible hernia is where the organ or tissue can be pushed back into its original place.
A non-reducible (or incarcerated hernia) is where the hernia becomes trapped outside of its original position in a hernia sack and cannot be pushed back into its original place. This type of hernia can be dangerous and someone who has one should seek medical help as soon as possible.
A strangulated hernia is a type of incarcerated hernia where the blood supply has been cut off to the tissue in the hernia sack eventually causing the tissue to die. Strangulated hernias are life threatening and a person with a strangulated hernia should seek medical help immediately. Signs of a strangulated hernia may include sudden pain, nausea or vomiting.
The most common types of hernia are; inguinal (inner groin), ventral (abdominal wall), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button) and hiatal (upper stomach).
An inguinal hernia is located in the inner groin and is when the intestines or bladder pushes through the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal is located in the inner groin area and runs parallel to the crease between your leg and abdomen that occurs when you are sitting down. It is the passageway that conveys the spermatic cord in men and one of the ligaments of the uterus in women.
Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernia and occur more frequently in men than in women.
A ventral hernia is located in the abdomen and can result from a naturally occurring weak point in the muscle (primary) or at the site of a previous surgery (incisional). Ventral hernias range from small, simple hernias to large complex hernias with multiple defects. Ventral hernias may start as a small lump or bulge and may get bigger over time.
A femoral hernias is also a type of groin hernia and occurs when the intestines or bladder push through the femoral canal. The femoral canal is located just below the inguinal canal and is the passage way that contains the femoral artery, smaller veins and nerves. Femoral hernias are much more common in women than men and often are the result of pregnancy and childbirth.
An umbilical hernia is when the intestines or fatty tissue push through a weakness around the belly button. This type of hernia is very common in children affecting about one in ten infants and is more frequent in premature babies. They may also occur in adults and are common in patients that are overweight, cough often or who lift heavy weights.
A hiatal hernia happens when your stomach pushes through a weak spot in the muscle layer between the chest and abdominal cavities where the esophagus (food pipe) passes through it. This muscle layer is called the diaphragm and the opening in it is called the hiatus which is what gives this type of hernia its name. Mild hiatal hernias are when a small amount of stomach has pushed into the chest cavity and are often not noticeable while more severe hiatal hernias may cause heart burn and or chest pain.