5/29/02 - New Hope for Hernia Patients

Five million people get a hernia each year, yet less than a million will seek treatment. They're afraid the operation will hurt more than the hernia itself. Now doctors hope a new technique called tension-free hernia repair will make surgery much more appealing.

Hernia patient Peter Russo says, "In the beginning it was uncomfortable and as it got worse it would get more painful." Peter is one of five million Americans affected by a hernia, or hole in the abdomen wall. Like many patients he noticed a bulge in his lower abdomen that made it more painful to perform simple things, like standing upright or lifting items around the house. But Peter feared surgery meant a long hospital stay and even longer recovery, a fear doctors say is all too common.

Dr. P. Daniel Read says, "People tend to put these off as long as possible and dread having to go through something like this because it's more of a nuisance problem. But they tend to get bigger and bigger over time and then more difficult to take care of."

Dr. Read fixes hernias with a new technique called tension-free hernia repair. Instead of making a large incision, Dr. Read makes tiny holes through which he inserts a scope and other instruments. Once inside, he guides a gortex or mesh-like material to cover the hole. This helps eliminate the strain on surrounding muscles and ligaments, reducing post-operative problems. "Much less pain, much quicker recovery and when you have less pain and quicker recovery, you have fewer complication," Dr. Read says.

Peter says not only did hernia surgery alleviate his pain, but he was back to regular activities within days. "It's in and out. You don't have to worry about spending a lot of time in the hospital. It's very quick and recovery was probably almost as quick." Peter says.

The chance a hernia will appear after tension-free surgery is typically less than one percent. For more information log onto

www.hernia.org