Ventral hernias are caused by loops of intestine bulging into weakened areas on the abdominal wall. A hernia that develops at an old surgical incision site is called an incisional hernia. Ventral hernias can also be caused by obesity, pregnancy, heavy lifting or frequent coughing. Most of the time, the loop of intestine can be easily reduced, or pushed back inside the abdomen. If a piece of intestine gets trapped inside the bulging space, it’s said to be incarcerated. Untreated incarcerated ventral hernias can lead to further complications, some life-threatening.
Incarcerated ventral hernias usually don’t cause much pain, but a permanent lump develops at the site. Increasing pain in an incarcerated hernia indicates possible hernia strangulation, which occurs when the trapped bowel swells in the tight space cutting off its blood supply, surgeon Mark Fusco M.D. of Melbourne, Fla. states on his website. Bowel death, also called necrosis, can occur within six hours of strangulation, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. A strangulated ventral hernia causes severe abdominal pain, fever, rapid heart rate and abdominal tenderness. Vomiting often occurs because the strangulated area blocks passage of digested material. Strangulation is a medical emergency that requires immediate surgery to prevent further complications.
- Incarcerated ventral hernias usually don’t cause much pain, but a permanent lump develops at the site.
- Increasing pain in an incarcerated hernia indicates possible hernia strangulation, which occurs when the trapped bowel swells in the tight space cutting off its blood supply, surgeon Mark Fusco M.D.
- of Melbourne, Fla. states on his website.
What is Necrotic Bowel Syndrome?
If the strangulated bowel trapped in an untreated ventral hernia dies from lack of blood supply or becomes infected, the bowel often ruptures, spilling its contents into the abdominal cavity and causing an infection called peritonitis. Septicemia, spread of the infection through the bloodstream, can cause shock, with low blood pressure and multiple organ failure that can lead to death if not promptly treated. Antibiotics are given intravenously to treat peritonitis.
If part of the bowel trapped in the ventral hernia strangulates and develops necrosis, the dead bowel tissue will need surgical removal or infection could spread. All dead bowel tissue is removed and the healthy ends of the remaining bowel are joined together. People who need bowel resection are more likely to develop sepsis.
What is Necrotic Bowel Syndrome?
Complications From an Impacted Bowel
Burst Hernia Symptoms
Emergency Symptoms of a Hernia
Complications of Colostomy Reversal
Blocked Duodenum Symptoms
Abdominal Hernia Signs & Symptoms
Hernia Signs and Symptoms in a Male
Post Operative Complications of Abdominal-Hernia Surgery
Can You Die From a Bowel Blockage?
- Fitzgibbons RJ, Forse RA. Groin hernias in adults. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(8):756-763. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp1404068
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Definition of HARUSPEX. Updated 2020.
- Mahadevan V. Essential Anatomy of the Abdominal Wall. In: Kingsnorth A, LeBlanc K, eds. Management of Abdominal Hernias. Fourth. London: Springer Science & Business Media; 2013:25-55.
- M BS. SRB’s Manual of Surgery. Sixth. London: Jaypee Brothers, Medical Publishers Pvt. Limited; 2019:739-776.
- Wang H, Naghavi M, Allen C, Barber R, Bhutta ZA, Carter A. Global, regional, and national life expectancy, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality for 249 causes of death, 1980–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet. 2016;388(10053):1459-1544. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31012-1
- Hoffmann H, Walther D, Bittner R, Köckerling F, Adolf D, Kirchhoff P. Smaller inguinal hernias are independent risk factors for developing chronic postoperative inguinal pain (CPIP). Annals of Surgery. 2020;271(4):756-764. doi:10.1097/SLA.0000000000003065
- Dhua AK, Aggarwal SK, Mathur N, Sethi G. Bilateral congenital diaphragmatic hernia. APSP J Case Rep. 2012;3(3):20. PMID: 23061036
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.