The recovery period
What to expect following your hernia repair
For many, hernia repair represents a ‘first surgical experience’ and despite some comments in the public domain to the contrary, the post-operative period can be a little uncomfortable and worrying.
People do differ, but following hernia repair at The University Hernia Clinic, in general:
- Immediate post-procedure discomfort is countered effectively by local anaesthetic, placed around the wound at the actual time of operation
- On the same evening as surgery, medium strength analgesics are required (less common would be the use of an injectable agent such as morphine)
- For two or three days afterwards, low to medium strength analgesics, such as Paracetamol or Codydramol (provided by The Hernia Clinic) may be required.
(Analgesics often promote constipation. This can be countered by drinking plenty of liquids and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Occasionally, laxatives may be necessary.)
Subsequently, whilst the wound is still healing (which will take a full 6-8 weeks in total), you may notice some mild aching, which may be more obvious with walking, or towards the very end of the day. ‘Pins and needles’-type sensations may be felt, magnified a little perhaps, by your knowledge that something has only recently been done. Very rarely is persistent discomfort felt, passing along the line of the incision, towards the top of the inner thigh.
Early on, if you feel along the line of the incision, at the site of the hernia repair, it is normal to feel a firm ‘sausage’-shaped mass. This represents the ‘healing process’ (with fluid being drawn into the area) and not the hernia coming back! It may take 6-8 weeks to flatten completely. After your follow-up review by the surgeon, the skin around the incision which is healing can be kept soft and supple by applying, for example, E45 cream or Johnson’s Baby Oil twice daily and rubbing it in gently.
Similarly, early on, you may notice an area of numbness around the incision. This occurs because the small nerves providing sensation in the skin have to be cut at the time of the surgery. Inside, another nerve can sometimes get in the way of the operation and may have to be cut. This can result in a small, permanently numb area just at the top of the thigh. Usually, however, after a few weeks, just about all sensation returns to near-normal.
The operation scar often becomes covered by regrowth of hair (previously shaved off just before surgery). The incision is usually 5-6 cm long and, whilst initially it will appear reddish, it will fade with time. The stitch used to close the wound is buried and will dissolve with time. There are no stitches that require removal. Some bruising around the wound is commonplace, but this soon disappears (like any bruise would). Occasionally, quite ‘colourful’ bruising can occur, although this too disappears quite promptly.
Any other complications following this type of surgery will have been explained to you, by the surgeon, beforehand. If, however, you experience any ‘abnormal’ symptoms or longer-term discomfort, please contact the 24-hour University Hernia Clinic post-operative helpline. We will provide you with advice on what to do.
When you get home
The speed of recovery from a hernia repair operation is a very individual matter. Each person will recover at his or her own pace. Rest is important and you may wish to consider getting additional help at home for the first few days after your operation.
The following guidelines however, will help you to take care of yourself and aid a speedy return to normal activities:
The first 24 hours...
- Feel free to walk around as you wish - you will not come undone!
- Do not overtire yourself - only do as much as you feel able.
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat light meals.
- If you experience pain or discomfort following your operation, take the pain killers provided by the Clinic to help you during the first few days.
- Do not make any important decisions or sign any legally binding documents for 24 hours after having a general anaesthetic.
- Do not drive a car or operate complex machinery for at least 48 hours.
When you start feeling better
We recommend that you consider taking time to rest for one or even two weeks after your operation.
Do however, resume your normal day to day activities and light exercise as soon as you feel able.
Be patient - do not recommence more intensive activities (cycling, jogging, tennis, sex) until at least one week after your operation and then, only if you feel able to do so.
If you lift heavy weights at work, or do weightlifting as a hobby, you should wait at least 6-8 weeks for the wound to heal fully.
The University Hernia Clinic can provide a letter of support to employers for those with physically strenuous jobs, asking for light duties.
Rarely, some people can experience troublesome problems after their hernia repair operation. The following symptoms may need treatment:
- Moderate to severe pain, or persistent discomfort after 24 hours.
- ‘Flu-like’ symptoms, with a high temperature.
- A very sore or inflamed wound site.
- An excessively bruised wound site.
- Persistent nausea and sickness.
If you experience any of the above, call the 24-hour University Hernia Clinic post-operative helpline. We will provide you with advice on what to do.