A ventral hernia is a condition in which the muscles of the abdominal wall have separated enough to allow segments of abdominal organs or the intestines to protrude through. A number of conditions can put enough strain on the abdominal wall to cause a hernia, and individuals suffering from them experience a number of characteristic symptoms.
Ventral hernias can occur for a number of reasons; most of these involve an activity or condition that puts abdominal muscles through prolonged or extreme strain, such as pregnancy, obesity, or lifting heavy objects. Chronic, violent coughing or vomiting can also strain these muscles. It is also common for ventral hernias to occur where a surgical incision in the abdominal wall was once made.
Characteristic symptoms associated with ventral hernias include often severe abdominal pain when coughing or lifting; a portion of the abdomen or stomach that appears to bulge out from the body and can be pushed back in; constipation; and a distended, bloated-looking abdomen.
Symptoms can be more severe when a segment of the bowel is trapped within the space in the abdomen wall. In these cases, the individual may suffer from extreme abdominal pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.
Ventral hernias are repaired through surgery. There are two main types of surgical hernia repair. Minimally invasive hernia repair uses a laparoscope; open hernia repair involves an incision in the abdomen. While the minimally invasive hernia repair allows the patient to recover more quickly, only smaller, less severe types of ventral hernias can be treated in this manner.
If you think you may have a ventral hernia and are experiencing hernia symptoms, consult your physician as soon as possible. While hernias are not always painful and are rarely serious, an untreated hernia can become larger over time and increase the chance of portions of the bowel becoming trapped within the space in the abdominal wall, creating what is known as a strangulation hernia. Strangulation hernias are a medical emergency.