Umbilical hernia surgery is designed to repair an umbilical hernia that forms on the stomach or abdomen. The surgery is done under general anesthesia, and patients typically remain in the hospital for several hours to several days afterward. Patients recover at home; it can take several weeks to fully recover from umbilical hernia surgery, depending on your general health and condition.
After the Surgery
When a person's abdominal muscles develop a weak spot or a possible defect, an umbilical hernia can occur. The contents of the hernia are contained within the hernia sac, which protrudes through your umbilicus, or your belly button. Your belly button is a common place for a hernia because it is one of the weakest parts of your abdomen. Symptoms can include moderate to extreme discomfort and a noticeable bulge, which will continue to enlarge when you stand or cough, and usually tends to disappear when you lie down.
When you're diagnosed with an umbilical hernia, you need surgery to fix the weakness or close the opening that allowed the protrusion to occur. The procedure itself usually takes approximately two hours and involves a small surgical incision under anesthesia.
Immediately following the surgery, you go to a recovery room where medical staff can monitor you for complications, including infection, blood loss, or an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. Provided there are no complications, you usually can go home within a few hours. You cannot drive yourself home, so someone will need to take you.
You should remain on bed rest for a day or two after the surgery, doing minimal activity. You can do basic activities, such as going to the bathroom, dressing yourself and eating, but you should avoid moving unnecessarily until your incision has begun to heel. You may experience some pain during this time, especially at the incision site, and you can take prescription painkillers or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications) as your doctor prescribes or recommends, until the pain subsides.
Caring for the Incision
Usually, the incision will be closed with sutures. This means you must be careful not to do anything that could open the sutures. You need to restrict movement that may cause the sutures to open, and you need to avoid getting the incision area wet. You will usually wear a bandage or dressing over the incision in order to protect it. You may have to change this bandage yourself periodically. Typically, the bandage can be removed within three days after the surgery. Most patients are able to remove the bandage at home, but your doctor may want to remove it during a follow-up exam to make sure the incision is healing properly.
The full recovery period really depends on your body, your general health condition, and the extent of the damage from the umbilical hernia. In general, you can expect to be able to perform daily activities as early as two weeks after being sent home after surgery. Individuals with a very active lifestyle, such as athletes or individuals with stressful jobs, should expect to take it easy for up to four or five weeks to allow for complete recovery before performing strenuous activities. Rushing into full activity too soon can be very dangerous and result in tearing the incision before it has healed properly, or even causing the hernia to repeat itself. It is crucial for you to listen to your own body and not push the envelope when it comes to strenuous activity while recovering.