Hernias and Their Diagnosis
Hernias are a common problem in the United States. While they can be harmless and pain-free, they are often linked to discomfort, depending on where the hernia is located. They generally cannot be diagnosed at home, so seeing a doctor is vital to the hernia diagnosis and treatment.
At Healthpointe, we pride ourselves on the knowledge, dedication, and skill of our medical staff. When treating with us, we make your understanding of your condition a priority in order to give you the best service possible. Please click below to learn about the different types of hernias and the treatments associated with them.
A physical exam by a medical professional is usually all that is needed in order to diagnose an inguinal hernia. A doctor will inspect for a bulge near the groin. Any sort of strain on the body helps make this sort of hernia bulge more prominent, so the doctor will usually request the patient to stand and cough during this examination.
A doctor generally will, depending on the situation, first attempt to correct a hernia by manually applying pressure to reduce the bulge and move it back into place. For larger and more painful hernias, surgery is typically required to alleviate the pain and prevent future complications.
In the diagnosis of an incisional hernia, a doctor may perform a physical exam to look for a bulge near the area of a surgical scar—much like what is performed in the diagnosis of an inguinal hernia. Depending on the size of the hernia, more thorough examinations such as blood tests, x-rays, and CT scans may be required.
Once diagnosed, a doctor will determine what treatment is appropriate for the situation, taking into consideration the patient’s health, level of physical activity, and other factors. For the most part, treatment will be provided via one of two types of surgeries: an open hernia repair (herniorrhaphy), or a laparoscopy.
Similar to inguinal and incisional hernias, a femoral hernia can by diagnosed during a physical examination by a doctor. If the hernia is too small to be found on the physical examination but the doctor still suspects one, an ultrasound of the abdominal and groin area can be performed to confirm its presence. A CT scan may also be necessary in this diagnosis.
In regards to treatment, a doctor will make a decision depending on the size of the bulge and the level of pain and discomfort experienced by the patient. While smaller femoral hernias may be asymptomatic and not require treatment, larger ones require surgical repair—especially when associated with pain and discomfort. Most often, the surgery will be either an open hernia repair or a laparoscopy.
Like most hernias, an umbilical hernia can usually be diagnosed by a doctor through a physical examination. In some cases, further tests such as an abdominal ultrasound or a CT scan will be used to confirm a diagnosis, as well as screen for possible complications. X-rays and blood tests may be ordered as well.
Generally, umbilical hernias in infants will resolve on their own, requiring no surgical intervention or treatment. There are cases when a doctor will be able to manually move the herniated tissue back into place (though this should only be attempted by a doctor). In adults, however, the situation is different and surgery is typically recommended, especially if the hernia is associated with pain or discomfort. As with other hernias, the most common surgeries performed in the treatment of an umbilical hernia is an open hernia repair or a laparoscopy.
For the diagnosis of a hiatal hernia, more complicated testing may be required. A barium swallow, for instance, may be used to assist in identifying problems in the esophagus. This involves drinking a mixture of water and barium sulfate—a metallic compound that shows up on radiographic testing—and running a set of x-rays.
An upper endoscopy or an esophageal manometry may also be used in this process. An endoscopy involves the use of a camera attached to the end of a thin tube in order to examine the digestive tract. An esophageal manometry utilizes a tube that passes through the stomach in order to test the contractions and muscle coordination of the esophagus during the digestion process. This helps screen for conditions causing symptoms such as heartburn.
Typically, the treatment of a hiatal hernia is unnecessary because people commonly do not have any pain or complications associated with it. However, in the case of recurring symptoms such as heartburn and acid reflux, medication and/or surgery may be necessary.
The use of antacids may be used to help neutralize stomach acid. Avoidance of certain acidic foods like grapes or blueberries may also be recommended. Other medications can be used to reduce and block acid production, allowing the esophagus to heal.
In regards to possible surgery, a hiatal hernia is treated much like the other several types of hernias; more likely than not, an open hernia repair or a laparoscopy will be performed.
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