Hernia Surgery Recovery

Recovery Tips for Hernia Surgery

When you’re preparing for surgery, you may feel both anxious about the unknown and perhaps relieved at the thought of living life with less pain and greater independence. Although the feeling of nervousness is completely normal before surgery, learning about what to expect goes a long way to help reduce anxiety. 


Understanding Your Hernia Procedure

A hernia is usually treated with surgery. For extra support, your surgeon may use a piece of flexible mesh which may prevent the hernia from recurring. Your doctor can repair the hernia using one of two surgical approaches:

  • Open surgery: After an incision is made at the site of the hernia, your surgeon puts the protruding tissue back in its place and stitches the weakened muscles back together.  
  • Laparoscopic surgery: In this type of surgery, the hernia is repaired using a less invasive approach. Instead of making one large incision, multiple smaller incisions are made to allow the insertion of surgical tools and a specialized camera known as a laparoscope to perform the procedure.

Each approach has its advantages. For example, laparoscopic surgery typically results in less pain and a shorter recovery time, while open surgery is less costly. Depending on the size and type of the hernia, open surgery may not require the use of general anesthesia.


Hernia Surgery Recovery: What to Expect

Hernia surgery recovery time varies from person to person. Typically, people who undergo less invasive procedures can be discharged from the hospital the same day barring any unusual side effects after surgery. More complex hernia repair surgeries, like those requiring abdominal wall reconstruction and complex bandaging, may require hospitalization for a few days post-op so your care team can closely monitor you and help to decrease your risk of infection as the recovery process begins.

Depending on the type of hernia surgery, your doctor may recommend strict lifestyle limitations to help keep you safe before and after surgery, and to minimize your recovery time. Common post-operative restrictions to follow to reduce risk of complications after hernia repair include: 

  • Refraining from strenuous activities, (i.e.,  lifting over 15 pounds)
  • Stopping smoking 
  • Avoiding exercises that pull abdominal muscles for at least two weeks (i.e., sit-ups, vigorous exercise activities, etc.). 

Pain or discomfort is a common post-op side effect of hernia repair and can typically be relieved by over-the-counter medication. For some, prescribed medication may be necessary for pain management.   Pain management may help speed your recovery and reduce your risk of developing certain complications after surgery, such as pneumonia or blood clots.

Although everyone’s recovery is different, it’s reasonable to expect that by week four, you’ll be able to return to work or school without lifting limitations and should be feeling like you’re at about 95% of your normal capacity. From there, you should quickly be back to 100% within days to weeks. 


Top 6 Recovery Tips

Looking for ways to support a speedy recovery time? Try these effective recovery tips: 

  1. Make a balanced diet a priority. Getting enough calories and protein through balanced nutrition is imperative after surgery. Protein is a key player during your recovery period and is important for maintaining lean muscle mass and reducing the risk of frailty, especially in the elderly. One study showed that consuming adequate protein through diet or high-protein oral nutrition supplements can reduce recovery time and limit the risk of adverse side effects after your operation. 
  2. Ask your doctor about adding an immunonutrition supplement to your preparation and recovery plans. Immunonutrition refers to the use of specific nutrients to help maintain immune function when the body is managing the stress of surgery.  In one study, an enhanced recovery pathway that incorporated an immunonutrition drink helped reduce time spent in the hospital by people undergoing open surgery for hernia repair. Talk to your doctor to learn more about making immunonutrition part of your pre- and post-surgery plans. 
  3. Strive for, or maintain, a healthy body weight. Striving toward a healthy body weight can help minimize the risk of post-op complications and lessen the chance of long-term side effects. If you are overweight, ask your surgeon if you have enough time before surgery to work on weight loss. If you are underweight, it’s important to focus on increasing your protein and calorie intake to help maintain your weight during the recovery phase. Remember, your body needs sufficient energy and essential nutrients to heal surgical wounds and for you to regain your strength.
  4. Be cautious with physical activities. Although strenuous exercise activities should be avoided, walking a little more than the previous day will help to decrease the risk of pneumonia and/or constipation. You should only resume driving when you no longer need pain medication and can sit comfortably for extended periods of time. 
  5. Maintain check-up appointments with your physician. Scheduling and attending follow-up appointments is so important during the recovery period. These visits allow your healthcare team to follow your progress, ensure you’re healing properly, keep pain under control and address any other side effects. 
  6. Follow your medication regimen. Take all medications as prescribed by your physician. , Taking all prescribed medications for pain and antibiotics are particularly important to reduce the risk of side effects during your recovery. For example, it is imperative to take the full cycle of antibiotics to reduce risk of infection.

Good self-care can go a long way in reducing your recovery time and minimizing risk of side effects. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about lifestyle and diet changes you can begin to make now that can set you up for success after your hernia surgery.

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