What is an Epigastric hernia?
An Epigastric hernia is a weakness in the abdominal above the belly button and below the breast bone (sternum). They can be found in both adults and children and account for around 2 to 3% of abdominal wall hernias. Unlike other hernias, epigastric hernias can show little to no symptoms, so they often go undiagnosed.
An Epigastric hernia is caused by a defect or hole within the wall of the abdomen and manifests as a lump either with or without a sharp pain in the upper abdomen. These lumps is usually fat but can be a knuckle of bowel that has pushed through a hole in the abdominal wall. The raised lump may only be visible with straining, coughing, sneezing or laughing but may be raised continually. The hernia can enlarge and maybe multiply.
Small hernias can be hard to diagnose and ultrasound is often needed for diagnosis and assessment.
Is surgery needed?
Surgery is recommended to repair symptomatic epigastric hernias and are performed as either:
Usually performed under general anaesthesia. An incision through the skin allows access to the weakened area and the repair is usually with a mesh placed deep (and therefore hidden) to the abdominal wall. As Epigastric hernias are often small, the incision is usually only a few centimeters and the recovery is relatively quick. Open surgery is the most common approach for this particular type of hernia.
You will need a general anaesthetic when undergoing Laparoscopic surgery. Your abdomen will be inflated with a harmless gas, which provides your surgeon a view of the hernia from the inside. Some small incisions in the abdominal wall allow for a tiny camera and key hole instruments access and using the images from the camera, mesh will be inserted to repair the hernia.
Complications of an untreated Epigastric Hernia
If an epigastric hernia is left untreated, complications may arise and cause:
● Hernia growing in size causing parts of the bowel to push through
● Increase in pain or tenderness
Hernia surgery is normally a safe procedure. However, all surgeries can come with some risks, these include:
● Feeling sore and some pain after
● Blood clots
● The hernia may return (recurrence)
If in some cases you may not be appropriate for surgery and the use of a corset or surgical belt may be recommended.
If you have any questions about epigastric hernias or the surgical repair process, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your symptoms and more.